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Last Updated: Saturday, 29 December 2007, 01:43 GMT
Profile: M&S boss Stuart Rose
Stuart Rose
Stuart Rose has a reputation for turning around struggling firms

Among his peers in the retail industry, Stuart Rose is regarded as something of a shrewd operator.

The boss of Marks and Spencer had a track record for turning around struggling retailers when he was pinched from Top Shop owner Arcadia to head up M&S in the summer of 2004.

At the time, the High Street icon was in deep trouble, losing market share to hipper and cheaper rivals and fending off a hostile takeover bid from Arcadia's owner, retail tycoon Philip Green.

In a dramatic boardroom shake-up, M&S replaced embattled chief executive Roger Holmes with Sir Stuart.

He immediately unveiled an ambitious turnaround strategy that involved buying the women's fashion brand Per Una from its creator George Davies and selling the firm's financial services division to focus on the chain's core business - women's fashion.

But the challenge was tough and analysts were sceptical.

Successful mission?

With half-year profits at M&S up 11% at 451.8m for the six months to the end of September, despite a wet summer and higher interest rates dampening consumer spending, it is generally accepted that Sir Stuart has, in three years, put M&S firmly back on the map.

Philip Green
Philip Green's bid was defeated by M&S shareholders

A number of high-profile advertising campaigns featuring celebrities, including 1960s model Twiggy and Hollywood actor Antonia Banderas, backed up by strong product offerings have helped to inject glamour back into the failing brand.

Perceived better value for money has also helped lure back disenchanted shoppers which Sir Stuart has achieved through squeezing suppliers, while co-founder of Martha Lane Fox was drafted in about six months ago to improve the firm's internet offering.

A strong commitment to ethical values and an environmentally-friendly approach has also had a winning effect.

Earlier in 2007 the chain announced a five-year plan to go carbon neutral, cutting energy consumption, stopping the use of landfill sites and stocking more products made from recycled materials.

Under Sir Stuart M&S also launched a Fairtrade clothing range.

The company's shares exceeded 700p in 2007, almost triple what they had been when Sir Stuart took the helm and there has recently been some speculation that he may now choose to leave on a high.

But the 58-year-old son of a civil servant has rejected these rumours and analysts are now watching to see how M&S manages to sustain its recovery through the widely predicted economic downturn in 2008.

Reputation secured

Sir Stuart grew up in Yorkshire and was educated at a Quaker boarding school.

He started his career in retail in 1972 after joining M&S as a management trainee.

Model Twiggy unveils a revamped M&S store on Oxford Street
1960s model Twiggy has helped to add glamour to the brand

He remained with the company for 17 years, holding a variety of roles in the textiles and food divisions, before being appointed commercial director heading M&S's European operations in Paris.

In 1989, he joined Burton Group, which at the time included Debenhams department stores and the Top Shop and Dorothy Perkins fashion chains.

The group later demerged into Arcadia and Debenhams, where he joined the latter as a buying and merchandising director before going on to head Burton Menswear, Evans, Dorothy Perkins and Principles.

In 1998 he was appointed chief executive of Argos - in the middle of its bid battle with retail giant GUS - and eventually secured a higher price for the catalogue chain.

Later, as the boss of troubled cash-and-carry business Booker, he arranged the merger with frozen food retailer Iceland, going on to become the enlarged group's chief executive.

But it was as head of Arcadia, which he joined in November 2000, that Sir Stuart secured his reputation for success in Britain's retail sector.

He turned around a company lumbered with more than 250m of debt, before presiding over the sale in 2002 of Arcadia to Bhs-owner Mr Green for 855m - making 25m out of the deal himself.

Sir Stuart, who was knighted in 2007 for services to the retail industry and corporate social responsibility, lists his interests as reading, fine wine and flying.

Stuart Rose, new M&S Chief Executive
"It's no secret that I've always admired this business"

The BBC's Marc Webber
"He could be spending most of his time trying to fend off a take-over bid"

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