Debenhams coup: Shareholders and City stockbroker Cenkos plot shake-up at retail chain

Kasmira Jefford
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Debenhams has had a tough few years after struggling with stiff competition (Source: Getty)
Debenhams could be forced to undergo a shake-up of its senior management after coming under pressure from a group of disgruntled investors unhappy with the department store group’s performance.

City stockbroker Cenkos is understood to have been asked by Debenhams shareholders that collectively own a stake of around 20 per cent in the company to see whether there is an appetite for change among other investors.

It is unclear who the group of investors are or what their plan is. However Cenkos is said to have spoken to shareholders about the idea of replacing chairman Nigel Northridge and chief executive Michael Sharp.

Their plan is understood to have had a luke-warm reception from other shareholders so far, with one top investor telling the Sunday Times that Sharp was doing an “adequate job” and that Cenkos was probably interested in the company’s broking mandate.

Debenhams has had a tough few years after struggling with stiff competition on the high street, weak consumer spending, and becoming heavily reliant on promotions to shift stock last Christmas following the mild autumn weather.

The group was targeted by Sports Direct founder Mike Ashley last year, who bought a stake in Debenhams before swapping it for a put option over 10.5 per cent of the stock.

Sharp insisted in June that the group was on track to deliver full year profits and margins in line with City expectations despite seeing no underlying sales growth in its third quarter.

It has been cutting back promotions, strengthening its online offer, and adding concessions in under-used store space to boost returns and increase shopper numbers.

Debenhams and Cenkos declined to comment.

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