Finance chief and key shareholder Keith Bryant quits and sells stake
Peacocks group finance director and major shareholder Keith Bryant this week quit the value fashion chain after a decade.

Bryant, who had a 14.4 per cent stake in Henson No.1, which took Peacocks private just over 12 months ago, has sold his stake back to the business for an undisclosed sum.

Sources in the market speculated that Bryant had become disillusioned with his role in the company after responsibilities for international expansion were taken away from him and given to group operations and IT director Neil Burns in January.

Until recently, Bryant is thought to have spent much of his time developing the chain's international strategy, which included doubling store numbers in Eastern Europe. Last year, it opened eight stores in Russia, four in the Ukraine and one in Slovakia.

Peacocks chief executive Richard Kirk denied that Bryant's decision was based on changes within the business and said his departure was a personal decision taken after the management buy-out had 'bedded down'.

Bryant played a key role in the chain's flotation on the London Stock Exchange in 1999 and then in the£410 million MBO that took place in December 2005, which gave management a 45.3 per cent stake in the business. Kirk and Bryant became the largest management shareholders, with 24.9 per cent and 14.4 per cent respectively.

Bryant's departure, which was announced internally on Tuesday, shocked the sector. One source close to the business said: 'Considering he put a big chunk of money into the business only a year ago, this is a real surprise. It would only make sense if he had another offer on the table or thought there was a buy-out opportunity with a venture capitalist where he would go in as chief executive. He was held in high esteem at Peacocks by Richard.'

Kirk said there was no news on a replacement for Bryant as yet. Group financial controller Mike Killoick will take on the role of acting group finance director on an interim basis.

Bryant was unavailable for comment.