Matalan founder is back as company chair
Back to the future. Matalan founder John Hargreaves has returned to the business he founded in 1985 as executive chair. He rejoins the fashion and lifestyle retailer business after a 15-year gap to step into the void left by outgoing chair Steve Johnson.
Johnson who led the chain through the last two years of the pandemic, is stepping down immediately, destination unknown. The former chair of Poundworld and Dreams joined Matalan in that role in July 2020, then replacing John Mills.
Hargreaves, who was last chair in 2007, said: “I would like to personally go on record and thank Steve for all his invaluable leadership and contributions over the last two years. Steve joined the business in a non-executive chair capacity and I am grateful that he agreed to step into an executive role to help guide the company through the pandemic. Nobody could have predicted the pandemic or the more recent macro-pressures affecting the retail industry.
“Matalan’s navigation of these challenges, our market share gains and the top-line performance announced in our latest trading updates are testament to Steve’s leadership and our colleagues’ ongoing dedication.
He added: “My belief in, passion for and commitment to our business are stronger than ever and I look forward to maximising our growth potential, along with the senior leadership team, delivering true omnichannel value for our customers.”
Johnson added: “It has been a pleasure to lead and work with all the colleagues over these last two extraordinary years. Matalan’s great value proposition is well-positioned to prosper over the coming years. I wish everyone in the business every success in the future.”
Its accounts for the latest financial year, filed in June, showed its turnaround was taking hold with sales jumping 38% to £1 billion in the 12 months to the end of February. Pre-tax losses narrowed to just £7.7 million from £131.5 million a year earlier, having cut over 700 jobs in the period. The company also said that for the first 13 weeks of its current financial year, revenue increased from £221.8 million to £286.5 million.
At the time Johnson said the firm remained “well positioned, offering outstanding value to our customers, which has shown through in our sales performance”.
In February, Hargreaves lost a 20-year legal battle with HM Revenue & Customs over a multimillion-pound tax bill. The defeat in Britain’s top tax court meant he had to pay capital gains tax on the sale of £231 million of Matalan shares as far back as May 2000.
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