Marks & Spencer snaps up John Lewis’s finance chief

Marks & Spencer has gone shopping at John Lewis for its new finance director, with Helen Weir to join M&S next year.

She will succeed Alan Stewart, who quit in the summer to join Tesco, but Weir’s appointment could leave M&S without a finance chief for nearly a year while she completes a six-month notice period.

Since July, Paul Friston, executive assistant to the M&S chief executive, Marc Bolland, has been performing the role on an interim basis and will continue to do so.

Weir is considered a City heavyweight, having spent nearly a decade at the B&Q owner Kingfisher in senior finance roles before becoming finance director at Lloyds Banking Group in 2004. She led its retail division in 2008 but left in 2011 after missing out on the top job to António Horta-Osório. She was later denied part of her bonuses by the bank after the payment protection insurance misselling scandal.

Bolland said he was “delighted” with the appointment, adding: “She is extremely well qualified, and brings a wealth of relevant financial, retail and consumer experience.”

M&S will pay Weir a basic annual salary of £590,000 and she will be eligible to join its executive bonus schemes. She has not been handed any shares but will receive a one-off payment of £188,500 to compensate for a reduction in her pension contributions. M&S said it might make a further payment to compensate her for missing out on the annual partners’ bonus at John Lewis.

M&S cheered investors this month by reporting its first increase in profits in four years and lifting its dividend. Despite chalking up a 13th quarter of declining clothing sales, the group managed to eke out a 2.3% increase in underlying first-half profits to £268m, thanks to higher margins and lower costs.

Weir is an interesting appointment for M&S as in recent years John Lewis has been closing the sales gap with its larger rival. A decade ago, sales at John Lewis Partnership, owner of the Waitrose chain, were just £5bn; at M&S they were about £8bn. Today the UK turnover of both chains is in the region of £9bn.

Powered by article was written by Zoe Wood, for The Guardian on Monday 17th November 2014 19.18 Europe/London © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010


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