M&S’s head hunt could lead to its first female boss as retailer kickstarts process to replace CEO Steve Rowe

  • M&S has hired headhunter MWM Consulting to advise on a plan
  • Potential internal candidates include COO Katie Bickerstaffe
  • Stuart Machin, Eoin Tonge (finance director) are two others.

Marks & Spencer has kickstarted a process to replace chief executive Steve Rowe.

MWM Consulting, the country’s largest high-street retailer, has been hired by MWM Consulting as a headhunter to help with a strategy that will include three candidates from within the company. Katie Bickerstaffe would become the first female boss of the business if she is appointed.

Stuart Machin is also a candidate, having revitalized the company’s food business. Eoin Tonge is the finance director.

Hunting for a new boss: M&S has hired headhunter MWM Consulting to advise on a plan

Hunting for a new boss: M&S has hired headhunter MWM Consulting to advise on a plan

Signs that M&S is poised to consider replacements for Rowe suggest the mood at its Paddington headquarters is brightening further after the hard work of the past four years since chairman Archie Norman’s arrival.

As many other retailers have been disrupted, it is believed that the retailer enjoyed a very successful year with both clothing and food.

This has been the strongest-performing food retailer in the autumn, and it is believed that clothing sales are so strong that wholesale prices will be reduced when Boxing Day begins online.

Sky News stated that Rowe might remain as the head of the company for another two years. Although a formal search has not yet begun, Rowe’s successor could be announced. However, sources informed The Mail that Rowe’s replacement may be announced as early as next year.

Sky added that the benchmarking review of internal candidates – a common part of boardroom succession processes – will eventually lead to a formal search in due course that will include external contenders.

CEO Steve Rowe could remain at the helm for another couple of years, Sky News said

Sky News reported that CEO Steve Rowe may remain in charge for a couple more years.

However, M&S has put significant effort into grooming internal candidates. Bickerstaffe was the former boss of Dixons Carphone UK and Ireland. She was first drafted to a non-executive position on the board in 2018. She was promoted to the role of strategy and transformation director last year.

Bickerstaffe was then promoted along with Machin, who is the chief operating officer. They were effectively matched up for the highest position.

A report by the MoS stating that Machin was an excellent candidate to lead Asda suggested quickly that the board structure needed to be changed.

Rowe, who started as a Saturday boy at M&S aged 15, has been chief executive since 2016 after taking over from Marc Bolland. Rowe is widely believed to be the key in getting the company back on track with his retail knowledge, energy, and business understanding.

An M&S spokesman said: ‘Every board has succession planning as part of its thinking but we have no formal process in place.’