Ashley Leads Coup to Oust Debenhams Chairman, CEO From Board

Debenhams To Close Stores In A Bid To Save The Brand

Sir Ian Cheshire commented: "It has been a great privilege to get to know my Debenhams colleagues over the past three years". The stalwart of British shopping districts, which has struggled to keep pace with Amazon.com Inc. and other online retailers, said discounting will likely hurt its gross margin in the first half, following three profit warnings past year.

Sergio Bucher is to stay on as chief executive, and will continue with the company's restructuring plan.

Chairman Sir Ian Cheshire was also voted off the board and will step down.

Digital sales rose 6 per cent over the six-week period, despite a slower start to the peak shopping season.

Debenhams further said that the United Kingdom trading environment has continued to be volatile, as expected, with clear evidence that customers have been seeking out promotions.

At the shareholder meeting Mr Bucher received 44pc votes in favour of his re-election and, excluding Sports Direct and Landmark, the vote for him to continue on the board was about 99.6pc in favour.

Two of the Debenham's major shareholders voted for Sir Cheshire to step down.

"The board is mindful of its responsibilities to all shareholders and has full confidence in Sergio and in the management's plan to reshape the business", it said.

In a statement, Debenhams said Sir Ian has concluded it is no longer possible for him to remain as chairman given the decision.

In August previous year, he rescued House of Fraser after the department store group collapsed into administration. Terry Duddy, Debenhams' senior independent director, was named interim chairman.

Sports Direct, which is owned by British billionaire Mike Ashley, acquired another struggling department store, House of Fraser, last year, after it went into administration, for 90 million pounds ($159.6 million), and some have speculated that Ashley is interested in combining the two businesses, according to Reuters.

"I recognise that individual shareholders have wished to register their dissatisfaction", said Duddy. I am looking forward to working with Sergio.

Also in December, Debenhams declined the offer of a 40 million pound interest-free loan from Ashley, saying conditions attached to it could affect the interests of other stakeholders.

Bucher said: "We responded to a significant increase in promotional activity in the market, particularly in key seasonal categories, in order to remain competitive for our customers".

Debenhams is in talks with lenders as it faces at least 300 million pounds of debt coming due starting next year.

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