Philip Clarke, Euan Sutherland and Dov Charney - the bosses who left us in 2014

 
Emma Haslett
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This year has had its fair share of disasters - from the Co-op’s continued struggles to Tesco’s melting share price.
But what of the people behind the stories? We’ve got the best, worst and most surprising people moves of the year.

1. Philip Clarke makes an unceremonious departure from Tesco


Clarke stepped down at the end of July (Source: Getty)

The cynical among us might suggest former Tesco chief executive Sir Terry Leahy picked exactly the right moment to hand over the reins to company man Philip Clarke. Either way, since Clarke took up the unenviable role, things had been in decline - partially because of competition from the discounters, partially because of a series of unwise decisions made in previous years.
But it was still a surprise when, at the end of July, Clarke stepped down - albeit after yet another profit warning. It was awkward timing: the following day, Clarke was due to host a party celebrating 40 years working for Tesco.
When it came to it, replacement Dave Lewis, the man behind Unilever’s successful Dove “real beauty” ad campaign, started at the beginning of September, a full month before he was originally supposed to. And then came the revelations about that £250m accounting black hole. But that’s for a different list...

2. Euan Sutherland throws in the towel at the Co-op


Sutherland made a promising start at the Co-op (Source: Co-operative Group)

Co-operative Group boss Euan Sutherland began the year in a pretty unpleasant position, after the Daily Mail had unceremoniously revealed its former chairman’s night-time habits at the end of 2013, causing an avalanche of revelations about how the group had been run.
But in March the cracks began to show when Sutherland took the unusual decision to post a message on Facebook attacking “an individual or individuals” who had attempted to undermine him by revealing his salary to the press.
The following day, Sutherland walked out, making his now-infamous comment that the company was “ungovernable”. He wasn’t completely wrong: shortly afterwards Lord Myners, the man parachuted into the Co-op’s board by the government to find a way of fixing it, also walked out, warning that unless something drastic changed, the company will “go bust”.

3. … and ends up at SuperGroup


Sutherland does his best Blue Steel with new boss Dunkerton (Source: SuperGroup)

What did Sutherland do next? Having spent six months giving the obligatory round of “why I did it” interviews, in October he cropped up in a very different role: as chief executive of fashion retailer SuperGroup. Alongside the announcement of his appointment, SuperGroup released shots of Sutherland posing in SuperDry gear. Cringe.
Sutherland has held senior positions at retailers Matalan, Currys, and B&Q owner Kingfisher, so he knows his retail. What was surprising was Julian Dunkerton’s decision to hand over the reins to someone else.
The outspoken SuperGroup founder has spent 30 years building his business: taking the decision to give someone else the responsibility - particularly someone once described by a friend as “a bit impulsive” - can’t have been easy.

4. Harriet Green goes out in a puff of smoke


Green is credited with single-handedly turning Thomas Cook around (Source: Getty)

To this day, no one’s quite sure why Harriet Green, chief executive of Thomas Cook, stepped down from the company she had single-handedly transformed. But shareholders didn’t like it: on the day Green announced her shock departure in November, £400m was wiped off the value of the company.
Green, who had become known for her workaholic habits (she hits the gym at 5am), was appointed to lead the company in 2012. Since then, shares have risen from a low of 13p to a high of 185.3p.
Confusingly, just days before, Green had told conference-goers that “you can’t do a transformation on this sort of scale in a year or two years. I usually say it’s about six years… we’re absolutely not done”. Which prompted some to suggest all was not well in the Thomas Cook boardroom. Green, though, has remained tight-lipped.

5. Wonga’s leaky boardroom


Damelin was the first to go (Source: Getty)

To lose one boss may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose two looks like carelessness. To lose three in the space of the year? Hmm.
But that’s what happened in 2014, the year the payday lender was attacked - in some cases rather savagely - by everyone from the Advertising Standards Authority to the Archbishop of Canterbury.
First to go was Errol Damelin, who technically stepped down as chief executive in November last year, but left the company altogether in June. Next up was Niall Wass, Damelin’s replacement, who left in May after six months in the role, saying his time had been “busy and productive”.
In November, Wass’s replacement, Tim Weller, made it a hat trick. Labour peer Lord Mitchell rubbed salt into the wound by tweeting: “Ship. Deserting. Rats. Sinking”.

6. Pimco - trouble in paradise


Gross's resignation shocked investors (Source: Getty)

Investors had barely recovered from their New Year's Eve hangovers when Pimco chief executive Mohamed El-Erian quit after six years in the role. Until then, El-Erian had been widely regarded as one half of the company’s senior leadership dream team, running the world’s largest bond fund as the right-hand man to Bill Gross, Pimco’s charismatic co-founder.
El-Erian departed amid rumours of a falling-out between him and Gross, although in an interview with Reuters he insisted it was because his 10-year-old daughter had handed him a list of 22 of her milestones he had missed while he was running Pimco.
Nine months later, Gross himself shocked everyone by stepping down as well, joining Janus Capital. It was rumoured Gross made his move just in the nick of time: a day later, and he would have been held to account by the firm’s executive committee, which had planned to accept the latest in a string of resignations.
Gross’s departure was sorely felt: investors made $48.3bn (£30.8bn) of withdrawals from its funds in the weeks afterwards.

7. Rupert Soames adopts Churchillian spirit at Serco


Soames turned around Aggreko (Source: Getty)

Being the grandson of Winston Churchill probably helps to open doors, but it was nevertheless pretty audacious of Rupert Soames when he famously informed headhunters recruiting a new Aggreko chief executive in 2003 that he was the man for the job.
Did he display the same audacity when he moved to Serco in February? He’s certainly had to borrow some of his grandfather’s stoicism, as the embattled company reveals disaster after disaster - including (but not limited to) criminal tagging, GPs in Cornwall and escorting prisoners.

8. Dov Charney goes loco at American Apparel


Charney, fully clothed (Source: Getty)

American Apparel founder Dov Charney was the man investors loved to hate: his off-the-wall management techniques include allegedly having sex acts performed on him during an interview with a business journalist, wandering around naked in front of his employees (there’s video evidence to prove that one), and generally playing fast and loose with the accepted rules of management (not to mention decency).
But despite several sexual harrassment lawsuits (none of which, it’s worth pointing out, he was actually found guilty in) and an allegation of racism, Charney managed to hold on to his role until June this year when, after months of falling share prices, Charney was finally ousted.
It was a messy breakup, which brought up dozens of historical misconduct allegations. But it was too late: having peaked at $2.17 in March 2013, shares had fallen to 47 cents in April - which, by the looks of things, was the last straw for his long-suffering board.

9. Quindell’s Rob Terry gives up the ghost


Terry in happier times (Source: Quindell)

It was a year worthy of a movie script for Quindell: having grown gradually for years, in February the company’s shares suddenly shot from 318p to 588p, peaking at 649p in April.
But Quindell’s new-found glory was short-lived. In April, mysterious US short seller Gotham City Research published a note accusing the company, among other things, of having “magical” profits.
Did the company deserve the criticism? As analysts have pointed out, its balance sheet remains fairly solid. But Gotham City’s accusation prompted a massive decline in share price - at the time of writing, they were at 35.5p.
For chairman and founder Rob Terry, it was all too much. In November, Terry, finance director Laurence Moorse and non-exec director Steve Scott all left. But alas, the move didn’t do much to halt the inexorable decline of Quindell’s share price: having rallied briefly in the days following Terry’s departure, shares have since lost almost half their value.

10. Mothercare’s Simon Calver flies the nest


Calver's tech credentials landed him the job of Mothercare chief exec (Source: LoveFilm)

To be fair, Simon Calver had seemed a creative choice when he was appointed as Mothercare chief executive in 2012, but the company was keen on making a splash in online retail, and the LoveFilm founder was seen as having the tech know-how to do it.
But alas: the best-laid plans, etc etc. Fast forward almost exactly two years to February 2014, and Calver stepped down, weeks after a profits warning had caused shares in the retailer to fall more than 30 per cent.
At the time, analysts weren’t surprised: Calver had little experience running a high street chain. Although investors might have had more faith in him: since his departure, shares have fallen from 250p to just 174p. Ouch.

11. The chief financial officer carousel


(Source: Getty)

It hasn’t just been a year of change at the top: there have also been shifts on the second rung down.
Tesco finance boss Laurie McIlwee got the carousel turning when he quit in April, but it wasn’t until July that the supermarket got round to poaching Alan Stewart from M&S. There was yet another delay as M&S got its act together, but in November it announced it had appointed Helen Weir, John Lewis’ chief financial officer.
Elsewhere, in August AA finance chief Andy Boland stepped down, while in October, pharmaceutical giant Shire lost chief bean-counter James Bowling to Severn Trent. Finally, in December, Mothercare nabbed Richard Smothers from beverage tin maker Rexam. We can but hope it’s a long time before he is canned....

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