Chief hired to turn around Game Group

EMBATTLED computer games specialist Game Group yesterday brought back a little cheer to investors by hiring a new chief executive, two months after a 28 per cent plunge in yearly profits sparked the abrupt departure of former boss Lisa Morgan.

Ian Shepherd, a former Vodafone executive and “keen gamer for over 30 years”, is to take on the daunting task of rejuvenating a business whose shares have halved in value over the past year.

Yesterday, Game warned that it would make a loss over the first half, though the second half is expected to stay in the black due to the beneficial effect of the Christmas trading rush.

Total like-for-like sales at Game plunged 12.3 per cent over the first 19 weeks of the year, dragged down by a particularly weak performance in the UK and Ireland, where like-for-like sales fell 17.2 per cent. International sales fell 4.6 per cent and online sales, by contrast, grew 13.5 per cent.

The sales fall reflects a sharp decline in the PC and video games market globally and intense competition from supermarkets and online operators.

Shepherd, 41, is due to start at the company at the end of the month. He worked at management consultancy LEK, Cable & Wireless and BSkyB before joining Vodafone four years ago, moving up to become UK consumer director. On his company CV, he claims to have been a lover of gaming since the earliest home computers were introduced, culminating in his current “obsession” with the game Modern Warfare 2.

Shepherd is expected to receive a pay package broadly in line with his predecessor Morgan, who made £535,000 in the 2009/10 financial year, down from £912,000 in the previous year.