Debenhams hires new chairman to steer it through key Christmas trading

Debenhams has announced plans to appoint former House of Fraser finance chief Mark Gifford as the next chairman of its parent business.

Mr Gifford will help to lead the turnaround of the department store chain, which was rescued from administration earlier this year.

He will become chairman of Debenhams’ owner Celine Jersey Topco Limited, the parent business of Debenhams Group.

The new chairman is also currently chairman of accessories brand Radley and is a non-executive director of Ann Summers’ owner GGI.

He was previously chief finance officer of Game Digital from 2015 to 2018 and held the same role at House of Fraser for the previous eight years.

The appointment comes after a boardroom shake-up at the struggling retailer, which saw previous chairman Ian Cheshire leave in January.

Debenhams also replaced previous chief executive Sergio Bucher with restructuring veteran Stefaan Vansteenkiste in the top role in August.

Mr Gifford will be tasked with assisting the new chief executive through the crucial fourth quarter and tricky Christmas trading period.

Earlier this month, Debenhams secured an extra £50 million cash injection to provide it with additional liquidity.

Shortly after Celine took control of the business in the spring, it launched a Company’s Voluntary Arrangement (CVA) restructuring deal which is set to progress after recently surviving a High Court legal challenge.

The company said that the company will therefore shut 22 stores by January 2020, while rent reductions have been sought on a further 105 stores.

Debenhams plans to eventually close 50 of its 166 UK stores.

Mr Vansteenkiste said: “We are delighted that Mark will be joining the parent board to work with our investor consortium, who have confirmed their continuing commitment through providing additional liquidity for our peak trading.

“Mark’s expertise and understanding of business change as well as the retail industry will be invaluable.”

Mr Gifford said: “I am excited about the opportunity to play a part in building a successful future for one of the UK’s best-known retail businesses.

“We are assembling a strong group of board members and I am looking forward to working with the team as we implement the necessary changes to deliver a sustainable and profitable future.”

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