Nick Robertson, the co-founder of the online fashion retailer Asos, is to step down as chief executive in a surprise move after a tricky 18 months for the former stock market darling.
The entrepreneur, who will remain on the board as a non-executive director, will be succeeded by Nick Beighton, the group’s chief operating officer and its former finance director, who is thought to have been groomed for the role over the past year and a half.
The company declined to comment on the move, which comes after a troubled period for the business that has included a series of profit warnings, a fire at its warehouse and poor international sales following adverse currency movements. It also follows Robertson raising £20m by selling shares in the retailer in January, although his remaining stake of just under 10% of the company is still worth about £210m.
A person familiar with the company said Robertson “should be applauded” for stepping down from the business he created, because many entrepreneurs cling on as bosses even if they do not possess the skills to run established businesses. The adviser said: “It suits him and the business to move on.”
Robertson founded Asos in 2000 when it was known as As Seen On Screen because its garments were copies of clothes worn by celebrities. It was floated on London’s junior stock market, Aim, the following year and boomed from a company then worth about £12m to one worth about £6bn last year, as it introduced more original ranges aimed at the mid-market, expanded internationally and consistently wowed the City by producing stellar figures.
However, since its shares peaked in early 2014, the value of the business has slumped and the stock market now deems it to be worth about £2.5bn. In March last year, Asos warned that higher warehouse costs and start-up losses in China would hit annual profits. It followed that up three months later by admitting that the strong pound had forced it to slash prices for non-UK customers.
Beighton joined Asos as finance director in 2009, and was promoted to chief operating officer last October. At the time of the appointment, the Barclays analyst Christodoulos Chaviaras said: “It is important news in our view that Nick Beighton will be taking on the newly established role of chief operating officer.
“This will likely be viewed positively by investors, some of whom have been claiming that in the current phase of growth, Asos needs further management additions.”
The news, which is thought to have been relayed to major investors by the Asos chairman, Brian McBride, after the stock market closed on Tuesday evening, is expected to be formally announced on Wednesday morning.
This article was written by Simon Goodley, for theguardian.com on Tuesday 1st September 2015 19.28 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010