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Debenhams picks ex-House of Fraser boss Gifford as new chair | Business News

Debenhams department store on Oxford Street

A former finance chief at Home of Fraser (HoF) is to tackle the chairmanship of Debenhams as Britain’s largest division retailer braces for a vital Christmas buying and selling interval.

Sky Information has learnt that Debenhams, which emerged earlier this yr from a short spell in administration, is near naming Mark Gifford to the position.

Insiders mentioned on Wednesday that an announcement about Mr Gifford’s appointment as chairman of Celine Holdings, the holding firm for Debenhams’ retail operations, might come as quickly as this week.

His arrival will add important excessive avenue experience to the enterprise throughout a interval during which it continues to battle for survival.

Mr Gifford spent greater than a decade at HoF, leaving in 2015 to hitch the leisure retailer Sport Group as its chief monetary officer.

He’s now a board member on the firm behind Ann Summers, the lingerie chain.

The brand new chairman’s rapid activity will likely be to help Stefaan Vansteenkiste, the restructuring veteran who grew to become Debenhams’ chief government through the summer time, in making certain a profitable festive efficiency in difficult buying and selling circumstances.

Debenhams, which is now privately owned after a 15-year stint as a inventory market-listed enterprise, has endured a torrid 12 months.

Its holding firm was compelled into administration within the spring, and since rising from insolvency proceedings has endured an anxious wait to implement a turnaround plan that can contain closing roughly 50 shops with the lack of hundreds of jobs.

A authorized problem to Debenhams’ Firm Voluntary Association, funded by Mike Ashley’s Sports activities Direct Worldwide, was lately rejected.

Mr Ashley had fought a working battle with Debenhams, lodging a string of proposals that might have given him management of the enterprise and allowed him to mix it with HoF, which he acquired out of administration final yr.

In latest months, Mr Ashley has bemoaned the state of HoF and described its issues as “terminal”.

Mr Gifford will successfully change Terry Duddy, a former Argos and Homebase boss, who had been chairman of Debenhams plc.

In flip, Mr Duddy had been parachuted into the position earlier this yr when Sports activities Direct voted his predecessor, Sir Ian Cheshire, off the board.

The arrival of Mr Gifford will come weeks after Debenhams confirmed that it had lined up £50m of extra monetary help to see it by means of to the Christmas buying and selling interval.

The primary tranche of Debenhams’ retailer closures, which is able to see simply over 20 retailers axed, is deliberate for early subsequent yr.

In whole, the plan will result in greater than 4,000 jobs being misplaced, the newest in a grim toll of excessive avenue casualties.

Quite a few chains have been compelled to hunt compromise agreements with collectors, essentially the most outstanding of which has been Sir Philip Inexperienced’s Arcadia Group, the proprietor of TopShop.

Sports activities Direct lately took management of Jack Wills, the preppy vogue label, and Boohoo, the online-only retailer, acquired the Karen Millen and Coast manufacturers, sparking fears for tons of of jobs.

Each offers had been carried out by means of pre-pack administrations.

Hedge funds together with Goldentree Asset Administration and Silver Level now personal large stakes in Debenhams, and are mentioned to be keen to be affected person earlier than launching an additional try to promote the enterprise.

Debenhams declined to touch upon Wednesday.

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