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Debenhams appoints new chairman to help lead ongoing transformation

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Debenhams Group has appointed a new chairman to help guide the multichannel department store as it continues through its turnaround programme.

Mark Gifford, who is currently chairman of Radley Group, will join Celine Jersey Topco Ltd as a director and chairman, Debenhams Group said today. Celine Jersey is the parent of the Debenhams group of operating companies. Gifford’s previous experience includes chief financial officer roles at Game Digital and House of Fraser.

Debenhams chief executive Stefaan Vansteenkiste said: “We are delighted that Mark will be joining the parent board to work with our investor consortium, who have confirmed their continuing commitment through providing additional liquidity for our peak trading. Mark’s expertise and understanding of business change as well as the retail industry will be invaluable. I look forward to working with him as we deliver the turnaround of the group.”

In October, Debenhams’ investors provided £50m in extra liquidity in order to cover the weeks leading up to Christmas. 

Mark Gifford, chairman-elect of Celine Jersey Topco Ltd said: “Debenhams is strongly backed by a supportive investor group with substantial resources and has an experienced management team with a clear plan to deliver a turnaround. I am excited about the opportunity to play a part in building a successful future for one of the UK’s best-known retail businesses. We are assembling a strong group of board members and I am looking forward to working with the team as we implement the necessary changes to deliver a sustainable and profitable future.”

Debenhams was bought out of administration by its lenders in April in exchange for new finance and a debt for equity swap. The department store’s turnaround is focused on putting social and mobile at the heart of the business to help it navigate a period of change in retail as shoppers are opting to make more of their retail purchases online. It also plans to close 22 of its 166 stores by the end of the first quarter of 2020 through a CVA arrangement, although they will continue to trade through the upcoming peak trading period. At the time of the administration, Terry Duddy was brought in as executive chairman but he said in the summer when Vansteenkiste was appointed that he would step down in September. 

Debenhams was ranked a Leading retailer in IRUK Top500 2019 research. 

Image courtesy of Debenhams

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