Blog: Were you nervous Sir Stuart?

Joe Ayling | 9 July 2008

There was an awful lot on the agenda at Marks and Spencer's AGM this afternoon, not least the controversial re-election of executive chairman Sir Stuart Rose.

The UK's top clothing chain has been dogged by a swathe of media reports leading up to the event - primarily sparked by disappointing Q2 results and a profit warning this time last week.

By 3.45pm GMT the meeting had been running for nearly two hours and a croaky under-pressure Rose seemed to be losing patience with a seemingly endless list of shareholder questions.

But then came the big event, with resolutions to be passed including Rose's own re-election as chairman, and you could cut the tension with a knife.

Speculation beforehand indicated that a third of institutional investors could vote against in the belief that having the CEO and executive chairman titles is against corporate governance.

Proposing Rose's re-election, deputy chairman Sir David Michels addressed shareholders with Sir Stuart's impressive CV, which includes being CEO of two of the UK's other top retailers - Arcadia Group and Argos - and turning M&S itself into a company with GBP1bn profits last year.

But with profit warnings, shares plummeting and takeover talk in the background, there was an uncomfortable feeling of "what if" in the air - or was that just me?

Sir David tried to rationalise the situation with a joke, asking "Are you nervous Stuart?", and soon enough his re-election was indicatively carried through.

After the week just gone, most people would be questioning whether they wanted such an intense annual corporate grilling for the next three years.

But as Sir Stuart joked during today's address, he's quite happy to "take the CEO hat off and put the chairman's hat on" from time to time.

By Joe Ayling, news editor.

UK: Rose defends his appointment as executive chairman


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