Arcadia, the worst performing retail chain in Europe, is resting its hopes for recovery firmly on the shoulders of two Iceland executives. In October, the UK group posted full-year losses of around £153m on sales of almost £2bn, and its share value has been falling steadily since its demerger from department store Debenhams three years ago.
Following the imminent retirement of John Hoerner (“the time could not be better for me to retire as chief executive”), the Arcadia leadership post is to be immediately filled by Iceland’s current CEO, Stuart Rose, who first angled for the role of his dreams in 1997. The frozen food group’s executive director, Charles Wilson, will follow him into the company next March.
The announcement of Rose’s departure from Iceland comes hard on his anointment as the successor of former CEO Malcolm Walker, and just five months into a planned merger deal with food wholesaler Booker. Speculation has surrounded the relationship between Rose and Walker, whose energetic efforts made the Iceland empire what it is today and who, many believed, would not yield control easily. Indeed, many shareholders expressed uncertainty over the merger with Booker, also headed by Rose, due to fears that Walker would step back and no longer be applying his Midas touch to the Iceland business.
News of Rose’s departure is expected to boost Iceland’s share value as Walker will now resume his duties, but Rose has stressed that “he bent over backwards to incorporate me into that business, [and] I cannot give him enough thanks for that.” He continued: “We were probably 50% over managed with him and me. And who would be better at running the business – me or Malcolm? Malcolm.”
Walker, currently executive chairman, stated: “We are naturally disappointed that Stuart and Charles have decided to leave us to pursue this new opportunity, but Iceland and Booker have strong management in depth and I am sure that both businesses will continue to prosper.”