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WH Smith has appointed Annette Court as its new chairman to succeed Henry Staunton.

Court will join the board of the retailer as a non-executive director and chairman designate on 1 September and take over Staunton’s position on 1 December.

Staunton retires from the board on 30 November after serving as chairman for nine years.

Court is currently chairman at Admiral Group and a non-executive director of Sage Group.

She was previously the CEO of Europe General Insurance for Zurich Financial Services and was a member of the group executive committee from 2007 to 2010.

Court was also the CEO of Direct Line Group (formerly RBS Insurance) from 2001 to 2006 and a member of the RBS Group executive management committee.

She has also been a member of the board of the Association of British Insurers.

WH Smith senior independent director Simon Emeny said the company had conducted a comprehensive search and Annette emerged as “the outstanding candidate”.

“She has a proven track record as a chair of a publicly quoted company and brings a wealth of experience from her board appointments and has a strong background in financial services and technology,” he added.

“Annette’s appointment will enable a smooth transition from Henry who has led the company successfully throughout his tenure as chairman.

“On behalf of the board, I would like to thank Henry for the outstanding contribution he has made to the success of WH Smith. He has successfully guided the company through an exceptional period of growth and helped it overcome the impact of the pandemic. We wish him well in the future.”

Staunton said it had been “a privilege” to serve as chairman of “this very special company”. “I wish Annette every success as she joins the Board at a very exciting time for the company as it continues to recover following the pandemic.”

CEO Carl Cowling added: “I would like to thank Henry for his wise counsel, guidance and support during my tenure as CEO. Henry has played a key role in contributing to the company’s success and I would like to wish him well for the future. I am very much looking forward to working with Annette as we continue to expand the scale and footprint of the business and benefit from the many exciting opportunities that lie ahead of us.”

Court said: “I am very excited to have the opportunity to succeed Henry as chair of WH Smith in its 230th year. I look forward to working with Carl and the management team to grow the business and take advantage of the many exciting opportunities that lie ahead.”

Shares in WH Smith jumped 1.1% higher to 1,572.5p as markets opened to the news of a new chairman.

Morning update

The FTSE 100 opened in the red, falling 0.1% 7,594.32pts as markets opened this morning.

Early risers included Nichols (up 4% to 1,274.2p), Just Eat Takeaway (up 1.6% to 1,842.6p) and Marks & Spencer (up 2.4% to 150p).

Devro (down 2% to 200p), AG Barr (down 1.9% to 514.9p) and SSP Group (down 0.8% to 263.6p) made up the early fallers.

Yesterday in the City

The FTSE 100 dipped back into negative territory following the Prime Minister narrowly surviving a no confidence vote. London’s leading index of shares dropped 0.1% to 7,602.05pts yesterday.

It was another quiet day on the markets in terms of newsflow for fmcg.

Risers included Bakkavor Group (up 1.6% to 100.6p), Virgin Wines UK (up 1.9% to 106p) and McBride (1.7% to 29.8p), while Parsley Box Group, Nichols and B&M European Value Retail were among the fallers, down 4.7% to 17.2p, 3.5% to 1,255p and 1.3% to 378.1p respectively.