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November 17, 2020

Boohoo moves to rebuild trust with new board hire

UK online fashion retailer Boohoo has appointed former Asos international director Shaun McCabe to its board as a non-executive director, who will also chair the audit committee.

By Beth Wright

UK online fashion retailer Boohoo has appointed former Asos international director Shaun McCabe to its board as a non-executive director, who will also chair the audit committee.

The move comes after Boohoo said in September it would hire two new non-executive directors – which will lead to a majority of independent directors on its board – after an independent review into its UK supply chain identified “many failings”.

The review was conducted by senior barrister Alison Levitt QC after media reports surfaced in July that one of its Leicester-based supplier factories was paying staff just GBP3.50 (US$4.38) an hour to work in unsafe conditions and in breach of UK coronavirus lockdowns.

Today (17 November), group executive chairman Mahmud Kamani said McCabe’s deep knowledge and experience of e-commerce and retail will be a great asset to the board.

“As a group we are committed to implementing our agenda for change that will help us on our journey to lead the fashion e-commerce market globally, and look forward to providing further regular updates on our progress in due course.”

McCabe is currently CFO of Trainline plc and a non-executive director at AO World Plc, where he is a member of its audit and remuneration committees. Prior to joining Trainline, he served as international director at Asos and CFO of Amazon Europe.

He holds 100,000 ordinary shares of GBP0.01 each in the group, representing 0.008% of its issued share capital.

“Having spoken extensively with fellow members of the board, I look forward to helping the group add further independent experience and increased oversight on matters of compliance and business practices,” he said.

Shore Capital analyst Greg Lawless notes today’s announcement is the first step in rebuilding trust with stakeholders, including shareholders.

“We see the appointment of Mr McCabe as a step in the right direction and we are sure that investors in Boohoo will welcome his appointment as a further independent voice in the Boardroom, who can help drive the needed change programme from a corporate governance perspective.

“In our view, this looks like a good addition to the Boohoo boardroom. We hope that this with the additional non-executive director with environmental, social, and governance (ESG) experience, together with the industry veteran who will lead the change programme will allow independent and fresh perspective into the company.

“We think that Boohoo is, perhaps reaching an inflection point and the Leicester sourcing scandal, uncovered in the summer, reflects growing pains. This shows an evolving board from which we believe investors might take some comfort. That said, the Levitt report from September talked of systematic issues of governance in the group, which will need to be resolved before investors can maybe sleep easier as shareholders in the business.”

Research from data and analytics company GlobalData shows the allegations against the Boohoo Group’s unethical working practices in its Leicester factories have damaged the retailer’s reputation, with 66.4% of UK clothing and footwear shoppers stating they now feel discouraged from purchasing fashion from any of its brands in the future.

The malpractice has also had a huge negative impact on the image of the fast fashion industry as a whole, the firm says.

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