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Sunday, 22 April, 2001, 10:41 GMT 11:41 UK
M&S 'confident' in Luc
M&S chairman Luc Vandevelde
Vandevelde: the M&S job 'a bit more difficult' than he thought
Troubled UK retailer Marks & Spencer on Sunday evening leapt to the defence of its chairman Luc Vandevelde, following reports in the Sunday papers that he might be under pressure to give up his 810,000 bonus.

"We all want what is best for the company and believe Luc is the man to do the job," said Kevin Lomax, a non-executive director on the remuneration committee of the retailer.

"Arrangements regarding the chairman's bonus have not been finalised," he said.

The Sunday Business reported that M&S non-executive directors were furious that Mr Vandevelde has not volunteered to waive his right to the bonus.

They will now insist that he does, given the company's 'dire performance' said the paper.

The Observer quoted a 'source' close to the board saying: "The chances that he will get this bonus are zero."

'Not approved yet'

But Louis Hill, a spokesman for M&S, told BBC News Online on Sunday that so far the issue of a bonus for Mr Vandevelde had not been up for discussion.

"We've never said Luc is getting a bonus, we've never said he isn't," the spokesman said.

"Any bonus he gets will have to be approved by the remuneration committee which will meet twice between now and 22 May," he added.

The remuneration committee, headed by the former chief of M15 Dame Stella Rimington, comprises mainly of non-executive directors whose remit is to approve executive pay and bonuses.

If approved by the committee, Mr Vandevelde can receive a bonus of up to 100% of his salary of 650,000.

A store in trouble

Last month, M&S said that it was to close all its overseas stores in a bid to halt falling sales and profits at its core UK operations.

The overhaul would affect 5,000 jobs, the vast majority of which are in continental Europe.

M&S also announced a new image change for its UK stores, with an expansion of areas such as homewares, foods and beauty.

Mr Vandevelde has given himself until the end of the year to begin the revival in the store's fortunes.

M&S share prices have plunged since the company's troubles began.

They closed on Friday at 276p, from a high of 664p in October 1997, which came in the days when the store's profits topped 1bn.

Though, at 276p, they are still comfortably off their low-point of 170p in October 2000.

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