Superdry co-founder returns as board and top management quit

  • Business
  • Wednesday, 03 Apr 2019

LONDON: Superdry Plc co-founder Julian Dunkerton is returning to lead the U.K. apparel retailer with the faux-Japanese logo after winning a shareholder vote that prompted the mass resignations of its board and top management.

Chairman Peter Bamford, Chief Executive Officer Euan Sutherland and Chief Financial Officer Ed Barker will leave immediately, the company said Tuesday. Dunkerton will take over as interim CEO and join the board after leaving the company about a year ago.

The showdown followed months of tension between the departing management and Dunkerton, who criticized a decision to expand the retailer’s range beyond the coats and jackets it’s known for. 

He also launched a “Save Superdry” website, where he said the company was “devastated through a misguided strategy.”

The retailer, whose clothes are popular with millennials, has said the changes were needed to boost sales after it blamed warmer weather over the fall and a lack of variety for its disappointing results. Advisory firm Institutional Shareholder Services had recommended a vote against Dunkerton’s return, while some big investors favored the move.

Boardroom dramas are proliferating in U.K. retail as the sector struggles with a shift to online shopping and consumer jitters over Brexit. Billionaire Mike Ashley orchestrated the ouster of the chairman and CEO of Debenhams from the board in January, and he’s proposed removing most of the board and installing himself as chief.

Until recently, Superdry bucked the gloom, growing rapidly as young consumers snapped up its T-shirts and hoodies. The co-founder said last year that he was leaving to pursue other projects, following reports of the conflict over strategy.

Dunkerton’s stake

Dunkerton holds an 18 percent stake, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Since his departure, the shares have lost more than two-thirds of their value and the company has issued repeated profit warnings. Superdry fell 8.8 percent Tuesday in London.

The departure of the current leadership came after just more than half of shareholders voted for the appointment of Dunkerton as a non-executive director at the general meeting on Tuesday. The company’s brokers, UBS and Investec, also resigned.

Superdry directors Dennis Millard, Minnow Powell, Sarah Wood and John Smith have given three-months’ notice and will stand down in July, the company said in a statement. Penny Hughes, chairman of the board’s remuneration committee, is also leaving immediately. - Bloomberg
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