Marks & Spencer CEO Steve Rowe is stepping down after six years in the role, passing on the baton to current co-COO and Food MD, Stuart Machin.
Alongside chairman Archie Norman, Rowe – who first joined the company at the age of 15 – has overseen a major transformation strategy for the retailer over the course of his tenure as CEO.
He will officially stand down as CEO at the company’s preliminary results on 25 May. He has agreed to remain in an advisor role to the new leadership for up to a year.
Rowe said it has been “an enormous privilege to lead the business I love and have spent almost all my career working for”.
“Leaving will be in many ways very difficult for me but I feel that after six hard years it is the right time to pass on the baton. I am enormously grateful for the support I have had in driving through the extraordinary transformation programme of the last few years from shareholders, the board, but most of all the many thousands of colleagues in the business.
“A piece of my heart will always remain with the M&S family, and I feel that we have done many of the hard yards to restore the business to what it should be. I’m proud that I am leaving a very strong team who will lead it into the next growth phase. I wish them every success.”
Chairman Archie Norman said Rowe had been a “magnificent servant of M&S” who put “his heart and soul into the job” and epitomised the retailer’s values.
“The M&S he took over was in parlous shape and throughout my tenure he has been fearless in grasping the nettles and facing into the challenges and has delivered massive progress.
“As we move into the next growth phase, he leaves a very strong team to take the business forward. But as someone who has touched so many colleagues across the business over the years, he will be much missed and goes with our huge affection and best wishes.”
Rowe took on the M&S CEO role in 2016. Under his tenure, he has overseen major business changes – including a joint venture with Ocado Retail that took M&S Food products online for the first time, the doubling of the Clothing & Home online penetration, a store estate overhaul to accommodate the expansion of the Food business, and the rebuilding of profitable growth in the international business.
Most recently, he guided the business through the pandemic and supply chain crisis and “ensured it came through stronger”, the company said in a statement.
Machin will step into the new role and continue to carry his responsibilities as Food chief, as well as head of operations, property, store development and technology. He will also oversee HR and corporate communications, and will join the plc board from 25 May.
Current co-COO Katie Bickerstaffe will become co-CEO, with a focus on driving the business’s global omnichannel, and digital and data strategies. She will continue to oversee Clothing & Home, MS2, and international and financial services.
Bickerstaffe will also re-join the company’s board, where she was previously a non-executive director.
Current CFO Eoin Tonge becomes chief strategy & finance officer. He will also take on oversight of Plan A, M&S’s long-term sustainability programme.
The company added: “The board’s view is that under the current team, the business has made remarkable progress and that continuity of strategy and leadership is advantageous. Bringing together these three outstanding leaders will provide the stability, pace and bandwidth required to accelerate the pace of change.”