High-profile appointment being interpreted as succession planning by chief executive Marc Bolland

The appointment of Laura Wade-Gery as Marks & Spencer’s director of multichannel ecommerce shows early succession planning by chief executive Marc Bolland, according to company-watchers.

Wade-Gery, a high-flyer and top management star at Tesco - whose departure has shocked the grocer - is not seen as a shoe-in to replace Bolland, but the Dutchman is thinking ahead and wants to build a team around him capable of taking the reins eventually, sources familiar with the situation said.

The early planning is in contrast to what critics saw as the failure of Bolland’s predecessor, Sir Stuart Rose, to consider management succession adequately from his earliest days at the retailer.

The City was impressed by M&S’s appointment of Wade-Gery, news of which added about £185m to the retailer’s valuation on Tuesday, said Matrix analyst Tom Gadsby. Meanwhile Shore Capital’s Clive Black described the hiring as “potentially tremendous” and said: “Bolland deserves credit for luring such a talent.”

Seymour Pierce’s Kate Calvert said: “The poaching is a real coup. Wade-Gery was seen as a rising star at Tesco and potentially a future candidate for chief executive.”

Last November M&S increased its target for multichannel sales to between £800m and £1bn by 2013‑14 compared with £500m this year. Bolland said the appointment of Wade-Gery, who was chief executive of Tesco.com and Tesco Direct, reflected that ambition.

Wade-Gery said: “M&S is an iconic brand and has huge potential to develop a multichannel offering.”

While some observers believe M&S is hampered by the lack of an online food offer at present, it is thought Wade-Gery will focus on M&S’s general merchandise multi­channel business initially.

The retailer is also seeking an international director and Wade-Gery’s appointment will fuel expectation that a similarly high-profile appointment may be made.

Wade-Gery was placed in the M&S role by Spencer Stuart.

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The Merry-Go-Round

Laura Wade-Gery’s exit from Tesco, just two weeks after she was named as a member of incoming boss Phil Clarke’s executive committee, is a harsh blow to the grocer, City analysts believe.

Shore Capital analyst Clive Black said such personnel changes were the “logical outcome” of chief executive Sir Terry Leahy’s retirement in March. Black expected there to be “further whirls of the personnel merry-go-round” but thought most of Clarke’s executive team would be unlikely to defect in the near term, because most are long-term allies.

Wade-Gery was due to become Tesco’s commercial director for UK clothing, electricals and general merchandise in March. That role will now go to Per Bank, at present chief executive of Tesco Hungary.