Following Marks & Spencer is probably going to become less interesting over the next few years - which is bad news for us journalists but good news for investors.
With new chairman Robert Swannell and tough-guy finance director Alan Stewart alongside Marc Bolland, life at M&S is unlikely to be the roller-coaster ride it has been with Sir Stuart Rose at the helm.
Swannell is a City grandee, with vast experience in the Square Mile of dealing with investors, but also with more than enough experience of working in the sector - both as chairman of HMV and advising on a host of retail M&A situations - to claim to know what retailing is all about. His considered approach and breadth of experience beyond retailing is likely to prove a stark contrast to his colourful and exuberant predecessor.
With Stewart likely to prove a parsimonious finance director if his time under Kate Swann at WHSmith is anything to go by and Bolland a past-master at managing the City’s expectations, M&S is likely to be steering clear of controversy going forward, and that will probably keep the fund managers happier than they have been with their turbulent relationship with Rose.
What the new triumvirate lacks is any experience of running M&S, or of clothing retail. And with Rose having been such a hands-on merchant, that’s bound to be noticed. But what M&S isn’t lacking is traders who know their field. People like Kate Bostock, John Dixon and Steve Rowe have been around forever and know the business inside out, and Bolland’s track record at Morrisons suggests he’s not in the business of getting rid of experienced hands for fun.
But his arrival and that of the other new brooms should also ensure fresh thinking. Sure, Bolland is a newcomer to the world of clothing, but he does know about brands and the reported plan to slash the number of sub-brands cluttering M&S’s textile floors is absolutely the right thing to do. The recruitment of international and online chiefs is also long overdue, two key areas that have lacked real patronage on the board since Carl Leaver’s departure.
A lot of good things have happened at M&S under Rose’s tenure, and his shoes are going to take some filling. But the fact remains that Tuesday’s share price of 335p remains 7.5% below what it was five years ago and also well below the level of Sir Philip Green’s 2004 indicative offer of 400p. The City needs to fall in love with M&S again, and Swannell’s arrival could signal a new start in the relationship.