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JD Sports says it needs to create more diversity on its board as non-exec ends tenure

Lauretta Roberts
09 July 2021

JD Sports has said it intends to create more diversity on its board and address the tenure of some its members as long-standing non-executive director Martin Davies confirms he is standing down.

Davies has sat on the board of the sports retail giant for nine years and has confirmed his intention to depart with immediate effect. Non-executive directors may sit on boards for up to nine years, after which they must seek annual re-election, to preserve the independent nature of boards.

The move follows confirmation at the group's recent AGM that it would be splitting the role of executive chairman and CEO Peter Cowgill with a search now underway for a new CEO. Cowgill has been executive chairman since 2004.

Non-executive director and chairman of the remuneration committee, Andrew Leslie, who had served for 11 years, was voted off the board by shareholders at its AGM on 1 July. Shareholders had been unhappy at the award of a £4.3m bonus for Cowgill.

Other members of the board include Heather Jackson, who joined in 2015, Kath Smith, who joined in 2019, and Andy Long who joined this year. Long is a director at Pentland Group, which owns a near 52% stake in JD Sports.

In a statement JD Sports said: "As previously announced in our recent AGM statement, JD acknowledges that the composition of its Board should reflect the current scale, momentum and global positioning of the Group, the need to create additional diversity within its membership, and address the tenure of certain Board members who have served on the Board for longer than recommended within the Corporate Governance Code.

"The Board has already invited the independent non-executive directors to commence a selection process on new non-executive directors and make recommendations to the Nominations Committee. Accordingly, the Group expects to be in a position to make an announcement about Martin's successor in the short term."

Cowgill added: "After nearly nine years on the Board, I would like to thank Martin for his valued contribution to JD Sports Fashion Plc, in his roles as Senior Independent Director and Audit Committee Chair. We wish him well for the future."

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