Yesterday we got the long-awaited puff of white smoke above the building – and a revered new figurehead was finally in place.
At times, the inner workings of Marks & Spencer can seem almost as Byzantine in their complexity as the Vatican. Robert Swannell was the man eventually anointed to succeed Sir Stuart Rose as chairman, completing a management trinity alongside glamourpuss chief exec Marc Bolland and the numbers man, CFO Alan Stewart.
After the dramatic swoop for Bolland, some might argue the subsequent appointments lacked stardust. But the capture of the City-friendly Swannell has gone down well with investors. And at M&S, where shareholders seem always to be on the cusp of revolt, that’s a decent trick to pull off.
As a banker, his retail credentials are limited. Swannell is chairman of HMV Group but has held the post for less than two years. He’ll keep hold of that job but is to relinquish non-executive gigs at 3i, which has struggled of late, and British Land.
In his favour, Swannell was on the barricades as an advisor when Philip Green’s barbarian hordes were driven from the gates in 2004.
Bolland has been conspicuously quiet since (officially) taking over in May. But with Swannell representing a major shift from the flamboyant Sir Stuart, the former Morrisons man can expect plenty of space next year in which to do his thing.