Burns, who was appointed M&S chairman yesterday, will take up the role of deputy chairman with effect from 1 October 2005 and will become chairman after the retailer’s annual general meeting in July 2006.
He said that one of his first roles would be to review the all-male board of directors and possibly appoint a woman.
“The first thing that strikes me is that there are no women. All boards who are selling in these markets need to ask themselves why there are no women on the board,” he said.
Burns is already chairman of Abbey National and Glas Cymru (Welsh Water), and is a non-executive director of Banco Santander Central Hispano, Pearson Group and British Land.
The City was underwhelmed by the news with M&S shares finishing down 1p in yesterday’s trading.
However, the appointment was largely welcomed. Standard Life, a key M&S shareholder, said that the retailer must now unite to enable the company to realise its full potential after a search for an chairman caused turbulence on the M&S board.
The Association of British Insurers meanwhile said that it was good news that M&S had made a definite decision.