UK retailer Marks & Spencer’s online chief won’t return from leave

September 12, 2016 02:52 PM

(Bloomberg)—Marks & Spencer Group Plc said its online chief Laura Wade-Gery won’t return after a year away on maternity leave, parting ways with one of its brightest stars.

Wade-Gery, who was once considered a potential future chief executive of the U.K.’s largest clothing retailer, will step down from the board immediately and leave the company at the end of this month, M&S said in a statement Monday. The 51-year-old will receive up to eight months of salary and benefits, it said. Marks & Spencer is No. 18 in the Internet Retailer 2016 Europe 500 with estimated 2015 web sales of 1.76 billion euros ($1.95 billion), according data.

“It’s not good news as she has a fantastic reputation,” said Bryan Roberts, an analyst at TCC Global. “They are punching below their weight in e-commerce.”

Wade-Gery’s exit adds to a tumultuous year for M&S, which has included a change of leadership, the departure of at least five other directors and the steepest drop in clothing sales in eight years. The retailer last week announced plans to shed about 525 head office jobs in its biggest round of job cuts in seven years.

In the year she’s been absent, Wade-Gery said there had been “significant changes” in both her personal life and in the business. “I concluded that the time was right to move on from M&S,” said the executive, who joined from Tesco Plc in 2011.

Marks & Spencer shares fell as much as 5.7% in London Monday, weighed down by sales figures from the budget Primark chain that showed that U.K. retail spending remains under pressure.

M&S said there will be no further changes to the shift in roles that followed Wade-Gery’s maternity leave. Her position as online chief is now held by Patrick Bousquet-Chavanne, who is also running the retailer’s customer and marketing functions.




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