Swannell spent the weekend thrashing out an agreement with M&S, friends said, and while his appointment was not sealed last night he is understood to be in the final stage of the recruitment process. In an attempt to pacify institutional shareholders, who have been critical of Rose’s £875,000 non-executive pay package, Swannell is tipped to receive around £500,000 annually.
The HMV chairman’s City pedigree will also be an asset as he tries to mend relations with fund managers. Swannell spent 33 years as an investment banker, first at Schroders and then at Citigroup. His soft-spoken manner belies a wealth of experience negotiating some of London’s biggest deals. Swannell advised on the sales of P&O and Safeway, oversaw the merger of Schroders’ investment banking arm with Citi and helped Roman Abramovich buy Chelsea FC.
He is known to be a confidante of Rose and helped defend M&S against a hostile takeover attempt by retail tycoon Sir Philip Green in 2004.
Swannell would join at a time of transition for M&S. Chief executive Marc Bolland, whose retailing experience was limited to food and drink at Wm Morrison, took the reins in May. Bolland has indicated his desire to overhaul M&S’ clothing range and focus on e-commerce.
Investors, already irked by Rose’s autocratic style, last year endured the first dividend cut in nearly a decade as M&S saw profits drop 40 per cent to £604m. Swannell would be expected to preside over a turnaround.