How Holmes couldn't stop six years of rot

Less than 10 years ago, M&S was the star of the high street.

Under the leadership of Sir Richard Greenbury, it became the first UK retailer to break the£1 billion profit barrier in 1998. However, the tide turned on Greenbury as sales hit the skids and his autocratic management style lost favour.

Profits halved to£634 million a year later. Since then, it has made several false starts.

Greenbury quit in June 1999 and tycoon Philip Green made his first approach a few months later. However, he retreated in the wake of the controversy surrounding his interest.

The arrival of a new chairman, experienced European retailer Luc Vandevelde, in early 2000 raised hopes of recovery, as did the departure of chief executive Peter Salsbury. Vandevelde took over as chief executive and the market viewed the arrival of managing director Roger Holmes in January 2001 expectantly.

Holmes, who became chief executive, brought serious fashion clout to the retailer in the shape of George Davies and creative director Yasmin Yusuf.

However, the continuing failure to revive the fashion offer, and last week's interest from Green, meant Holmes had to go.