In a statement this afternoon (25 May), UK sportswear chain JD Sports says as a consequence of an ongoing review of its internal governance and controls it has decided to accelerate the separation of its chair and CEO roles.

As a result, Cowgill will step down from his position with immediate effect.

Helen Ashton, currently a non-executive director and chair of the Audit and Risk Committee, will become interim non-executive chair, while Kath Smith, currently a non-executive director and senior independent director, will become interim CEO.

Ashton joined the board in November 2021 and has held a wide range of executive-level roles including at Asos.

Smith is said to have considerable sports and outdoor industry experience having worked for over 25 years in the sector as managing director of the Adidas and Reebok brands. Her previous position prior to joining the board was general manager and vice president of The North Face EMEA. She will work closely with the senior leadership team to continue to deliver the group’s strategy.

The process to recruit a CEO remains ongoing and a process will now commence to recruit a new non-executive chair.

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Ashton says: “The business has developed strongly under Peter’s leadership into a world-leading multi-channel retailer with a proven strategy and clear momentum. However, as our business has become bigger and more complex, what is clear is that our internal infrastructure, governance and controls have not developed at the same pace.

“As we capitalise on the great opportunities ahead of us, the board is committed to ensuring that we have the highest standards of corporate governance and controls appropriate to a FTSE-100 company to support future growth.”

JD Sports first announced plans to split its CEO and executive chairman positions into two separate roles in July last year, with Cowgill noting at the time the decision is in line with the board’s “succession planning and to strengthen the depth of the management team.”

The news came amid rumours a month prior that the company was looking Cowgill’s successor.

Earlier this month, JD Sports upped its full-year profit target on a 5% jump in sales for the quarter ending 7 May but said it remains “conscious” of the headwinds looming.