Oddbins sales director Andy Gadsby has left the beleaguered high street off-licence chain after 14 years with the company.

Gadsby had been charged with implementing the controversial strategy of switching selected Oddbins stores to the French-oriented Nicholas fascia, a

decision made by its French parent company the Castel Group.

Last November Gadsby was quoted in The Grocer's sister publication Off Licence News as saying the company had transferred more stores to the Nicolas fascia than he thought would be the case and admitted the decision had been unpopular with staff.

The conversion was completed last November and the two brands were expected to start merging HQ functions this month, working towards running the two businesses under one umbrella. Gadsby's next move was unclear at the time of going to press.

Oddbins was bought by Castel for £57m in 2001, but following a number of years of falling sales and a difficult UK retail climate there has been speculation that the company is looking to sell the business for a fraction of the price it paid, a claim Castel branded "without basis."

Staff morale remains low, however, with staff complaining they are being kept in the dark. Last year's regional Christmas parties were cancelled, leading to further discontent. "Everyone has lost all motivation and the fact that Andy Gadsby has left leads us to believe something serious is going on," said one member of staff.

Last month Castel was linked to a proposed merger with the Thresher Group to create one super off-licence chain in the UK. However, while the company admitted holding talks with Thresher owner Vision Capital, it has denied any intention of selling.

Oddbins was unavailable for further comment.