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Monday, 12 November, 2001, 14:41 GMT
Top job split on cards for M&S
Marks and Spencer shopfront
Marks and Spencer set for management shake-up?
Marks & Spencer boss Luc Vandevelde has fuelled speculation that he is to step down as chief executive, but stay on as company chairman, in comments over the weekend.

"The time may be right to split the roles at the top," he told the Observer newspaper.

His remarks led to media reports that M&S retail managing director Roger Holmes is to take over as chief executive when the company's financial year ends in March 2002.

The company on Monday described the reports as "misleading," but admitted that managerial responsibilities may be divided next year.

"Luc has said that remaining as joint chief executive and chairman is not his ideal," said a spokesperson. "A final decision will be made by the board when the financial year ends in March."

The M&S board may decide to leave Mr Holmes in his current job until there is firmer evidence of a recovery in UK sales, the spokesperson added.

Profits growth

Mr Vandevelde, appointed in January 2000 to turn the ailing company around, last week cheered investors by reporting the retailer's first increase in profits for over three years.

Pre-tax profits for the six months to 29 September were up by 20% on the year, while UK operating profits rose by 18.2%.

Mr Vandevelde originally joined the company as chairman, but became joint chief executive when M&S veteran Peter Salsbury resigned in September last year after a string of disastrous trading figures.

2bn cashback

The company is currently aiming to regain investor confidence by ploughing 2bn into one-off end-of-year dividend payments.

It has raised the money through bond issues and property sales.

When he was first appointed, Mr Vandevelde pledged to resign if he failed to boost the company's performance within two years.

M&S said today that it aims to boost its sales during the run-up to Christmas by opening some of its flagship stores for 24 hours a day.

M&S shares, which have outperformed the FTSE index of leading shares for the past year, were trading marginally lower at 316.25 pence at midday on Monday.

See also:

06 Nov 01 | Business
M&S unveils profit jump
02 Nov 01 | Business
Marks & Spencer sells Spanish stores
24 Jan 00 | Business
M&S goes for Belgian boss
22 Mar 00 | Business
M&S unveils new look
19 Jun 00 | Northern Ireland
M&S fights compensation claim
12 Mar 00 | Business
M&S drops St Michael
23 Mar 00 | Scotland
Axed M&S supplier in jobs warning
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