Troubled M&S starts hunt for new PR chief

Marks and Spencer has decided to recruit its first dedicated corporate affairs director in two years. The retailer, which has been fighting City speculation over the last month that it is ripe for takeover, has briefed head-hunters to find suitable candidates for a top corporate PR role.

Marks and Spencer has decided to recruit its first dedicated

corporate affairs director in two years. The retailer, which has been

fighting City speculation over the last month that it is ripe for

takeover, has briefed head-hunters to find suitable candidates for a top

corporate PR role.



Although M&S has a policy of promoting from within, in communications as

well as other divisions, it has decided it needs to go outside and

recruit a PR professional with heavyweight investor relations

experience.



A precedent was set for recruiting PR people from outside the company in

October last year, when the corporate PR team hired two new members,

Louis Hill and Victoria Molyneux.



The new role would take over responsibility for IR from finance director

Robert Colvill and would oversee a team of 35 working across media

relations, internal communications and public affairs, all of which are

currently headed by corporate communications executive Brian Hudspith.

Hudspith will report to the new director.



The previous corporate PR chief for M&S, John Stanley, left in 1997.



Overall responsibility for the function has since lain with Clara

Freeman, the company’s personnel, group communications and UK stores

head. The new director will report to Freeman.



The retailer’s next financial results - its Christmas trading figures -

are due out next week and are keenly awaited by the City. Would-be

acquisitors are waiting to see whether the figures are poor or not

before they decide to pounce. Tesco was reported to be considering a bid

before Christmas, but has now made it known that it will not be

launching a takeover.



With a takeover battle looming, any new investor relations head is

likely to have their work cut out.



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