As he gets ready to hand over the reins at Debenhams in September, chief executive Rob Templeman could doubtless have his yacht of choice and put his feet up if he wanted.
He perhaps personifies that golden age of private equity retail deals in the last decade. Unlike some who followed his example, he has more often than not left a business in better shape than he found it - that’s true from Halfords to Homebase. And, despite some investor sour grapes about Debenhams’ performance since its private equity backers brought it back to market, the department store group has weathered rough trading conditions well.
Aged 53, Templeman needn’t settle down at the marina unless he really wants to and it’s tempting to believe that he might fancy one more big deal. And, now his old business partner and serial dealmaker John Lovering also has more time on his hands, the pair will perhaps run their slide rule over retailers in which they see hidden value. There are probably a few out there.
WHSmith will outsmart its critics
WHSmith often gets a bit of a pasting from observers when, as it almost invariably does, it posts profits up on sales down.
In fact, the retailer has been quite an innovator, in its understated way. Whether building online operations through small acquisitions with growth potential, such as Gadget Shop, imaginative identification of new UK location opportunities, such as workplaces, or international expansion into markets including India, it is chasing new opportunities.
WHSmith is not the sort of company to trumpet its achievements, yet during Kate Swann’s tenure it has met expectations and avoided nasty surprises. Those are achievements in themselves, and the retailer’s fans among the analysts expect sustained performance and argue its shares are undervalued. WHSmith has proved its critics wrong so far and looks likely to continue to do so.