Hardy leaves by 'mutual agreement'
Blacks Leisure CEO Russell Hardy has resigned with immediate effect. Finance director Keith Fleming will act as chief executive for the interim.

The retailer said Hardy is stepping down 'by mutual agreement' and it is instigating the search for a new CEO, which will include external candidates.

Blacks Leisure chairman David Bernstein said: 'The board would like to thank Russell for his contribution to the company and wishes him all the best for the future. Under his leadership much has been achieved and we are confident that the right strategy is in place. The priority - is to implement with urgency the necessary actions for Blacks Leisure to prosper as the leading specialist retailer in the growing outdoor and boardwear markets.'

Seymour Pierce analyst Richard Ratner said: 'We are not surprised by this as his tenure has not exactly been a tremendous success. We suspect, with Mike Ashley being free to bid in mid-August, if Sports Direct wishes to, that Keith's [Flemming] appointment might turn out to be permanent. In the meantime, trading is in line with expectations.'

The company said the group's trading is in line with expectations. However, the outlook for its first half will depend on the key summer season and the success of its new camping and summer clothing lines, which it said have started well.

The outdoor retailer, which operates Blacks, Millets, Freespirit, O'Neill and Mambo fascias, has appointed advisers to conduct a strategic review of its Freespirit operation. The group said: 'This review will be wide-ranging and will assess all options to maximise the growth potential of the Freespirit business and its value to Blacks Leisure shareholders.'