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M&S CEO to step down after six years

Tom Shearsmith
10 March 2022

Marks and Spencer CEO Steve Rowe will step down after six years in the role and a career spent with the business.

Rowe will end his time in charge on 25 May, succeeded by a duo of Stuart Machin and Katie Bickerstaffe, who worked together as Co-Chief Operating Officers at the retail chain.

It marks the end of a slow journey to the top for Rowe, who joined the business at 15 and rose through the ranks until eventually taking over as Chief Executive in 2016.

In a statement, Rowe said: “It has been an enormous privilege to lead the business I love and have spent almost all my career working for. Leaving will be in many ways very difficult for me but I feel that after six hard years it is the right time to pass on the baton.”

He took charge at a time of turbulence for the company, and has led it through a transformation.

M&S said it is now “in very different shape” to when Rowe took over six years ago. He will continue to advise the new leadership team for 12 months.

Chairman Archie Norman said: “The M&S he took over was in parlous shape and throughout my tenure he has been fearless in grasping the nettles and facing into the challenges and has delivered massive progress.

“As we move into the next growth phase, he leaves a very strong team to take the business forward. But as someone who has touched so many colleagues across the business over the years, he will be much missed and goes with our huge affection and best wishes.”

The business will now start what it calls a second phase of the transformation that started under Rowe.

Stuart Machin will be responsible for the food business, the operations, property, store development and technology as well as HR. Katie Bickerstaffe will focus on global operations, and the company’s digital future.

She will also keep her current responsibilities looking after the clothing and home stores among others.

Eoin Tonge, who had also been linked to the top job, will take over as Chief Strategy and Finance Officer.

Marks and Spencer

About Steve Rowe

The “M&S lifer”, as he has regularly been described by industry analysts, has helped to improve the retailer’s recent fortunes as part of its dramatic recent turnaround plan.

After six years steering the ship, Rowe will now pass responsibility to continue the firm’s revival to two of his top lieutenants.

Rowe worked his way up from the shop floor into store management roles before his heady ascent resulted in a director role in 2012.

He then took over as director of the company’s troubled general merchandise business, in charge of its homeware and clothing divisions.

Four years later, he was handed the unenviable task of modernising and re-energising the languishing 138-year-old retailer.

The difficult transformation saw Rowe shut dozens of underperforming stores, with thousands of jobs lost as a result.

The boss cut its weaker stores, upgraded its online logistics, improved its clothing ranges and expanded into online groceries through its joint venture with Ocado as part of the lengthy turnaround plan.

Over the past two years, the process has started to bear fruit, with shares in the retailer up 60%, even in spite of a recent dip on the back of market uncertainty.

Danni Hewson, financial analyst at AJ Bell, said that Rowe would be a “tough act to follow” after improving its profitability and putting its clothing and home operation on a stronger footing.

“It’s a smart succession plan and the outgoing CEO will be staying on for 12 months to support his replacements,” he added.

“But investors will be nervous. Though the new team at the top worked alongside Steve Rowe to implement the transformation plan, there will be concern that the magic and sparkle will dissipate.”


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