IPO candidate Blue Inc swapped one Rose for another as Ao.com chairman Richard replaced Sir Stuart as chairman.
Rose is a face that will be almost as familiar as Sir Stuart’s at the Stock Exchange as he chairs both newly floated electricals etailer Ao.com and cash and carry giant Booker.
However, Rose brings not only corporate experience, but a strong entrepreneurial streak - in fact, Rose was a prolific inventor. “In the eighties, I invented the world’s first set top box,” he tells Retail Week. “Teletext subtitles were being trialled but no television could receive it until I came up with it.”
Rose has a habit of spotting good opportunities early. He joined Ao.com – which recently floated with a £1.2bn valuation - six years ago when it was a mere minnow and believes in Blue Inc’s potential.
“It’s a great company that is differentiated in a fragmented market. I was very impressed with Steven [Cohen, chief executive of Blue Inc]. He’s done great things with that business,” he says.
Rose joins Blue Inc at an important time in its development. The retailer is the latest to eye entry on to the stock market and has hired Cantor Fitzgerald to advise it on its entry onto Aim before the summer.
Cohen told Retail Week last week that the proceeds will be used to “supercharge” Blue Inc’s growth as he eyes a total of 500 stores for the 240-store retailer in the UK.
This plan fits well with Rose’s area of specialism. “I like managing the step change of a business, be it a turnaround or it growing rapidly to reach its potential,” he says.
Rose is a perennial overachiever. He first came to prominence as the chief executive of electricals wholesaler WF Electrical where in his seven years at the helm he grew the share price from £1.50 to £8.50 before selling it to Dutch conglomerate Hagemeyer.
His next role, at tea retailer Whittards, was a turnaround. Rose said the retailer was about to go bust when he took over as chief executive. However, within five years he had turned the retailer around, with shares rising from 15p per share to £2.20 and sold it to Icelandic investment firm Baugur.
After the sale, he returned to electricals becoming chairman of AC Electricals, which he sold to Wolseley after growing profit ten-fold during his time at the business.
Rose talks a lot of shareholder value and the return he has delivered, which bodes well for any would-be Blue Inc investors.
Rose is clearly addicted to the cut and thrust of the corporate world. He says he tried to retire after he sold AC Electricals but became “very bored, very quickly” and returned back to business to “look for some aggravation”.
He found it in abundance when he joined struggling wholesaler Blueheath as chairman in 2007 where he plotted its reverse acquisition of cash and carry giant Booker Group, of which he remains chairman today.
Rose says the thrill-seeking he craves in a corporate world is mirrored in his private life. “I don’t go sky diving or anything but I love to travel and see stimulating places.” His recent adventures have included both North Korea and Iran, which he tips as the next big entrepreneurial hub. “It’s really artistic and entrepreneurial with lots of tech firms.”
Rose has a knack of spotting potential. He joined Ao.com in 2008 when it was still a relatively small business. “It was worth around £20m when I joined but I could see the possibility,” he says.
Rose says seeking out a business’ “story” has helped him spot up and coming retailers. “I’ve turned down many roles when I haven’t seen the angle,” he says. “There is no point doing it if I can’t see the angle – and can’t identify where I can make a difference.”
As one would expect, working with retail entrepreneurs such as Ao.com boss John Roberts and Cohen, who has grown the 28 store Blue Inc business he bought just eight years ago to a 240-store chain, Rose is also a self starter.
He was voted Entrepreneur of the Year by the Financial Times in 2004, and is of course a keen inventor.
As well as the set top box, Rose also developed light switch technology, which allowed multiple controls to operate lighting in different parts of the home, that was sold to manufacturing firm Hawker Siddeley.
Blue Inc shareholders will be hoping Rose’s magic touch will help its stock market debut go with a bang this summer.