Former Marks & Spencer chairman Sir Stuart Rose is at the centre of speculation that he has sold a big tranche of shares in the retailer.

There were restrictions on Rose reducing his stake until the beginning of this month but has been keen to diversify his interests, the Daily Mail reported.

Sources said that a disposal by Rose would not be seen as a vote of confidence in Marks & Spencer under its new leadership.

Rose would not say whether he had sold shares but told the newspaper: “I am still a shareholder of M&S.”

Asked if he was still a substantial shareholder he replied: “That depends on what you call substantial – I have more than five bobs worth.

“Now that I have left M&S I don’t have to quantify my holding – for once privacy’s on my side.”

Over the weekend it emerged that Rose has taken a stake in online retailer The Hut and become chairman of Mobile money Network, a joint venture between Carphone Warehouse founder Charles Dunstone, Best Buy Europe and payments firm Monitise.