Sports Direct boss Mike Ashley gives Debenhams chairman the boot

Debenhams chairman Ian Cheshire steps down with immediate effect

Debenhams: Sports Directs' Mike Ashley sparks fresh CRISIS at retailer | Daily Star

The department store group, which is pushing ahead with a major restructuring programme, saw like-for-like sales fall 3.4 per cent in the six weeks to 5 January, weighed down by its core United Kingdom market where sales were 3.6 per cent lower. The stock hit its lowest since 2006.

It bought department store chain House of Fraser out of administration for £90m past year and analysts have speculated that Ashley might want to put the two department store groups together.

Comparable sales in the United Kingdom were 3.6% lower than past year, due to weak store footfall that also affected other high street retailers.

The retail tycoon, who owns just under 30 per cent of the department store chain through Sports Direct, teamed up with fellow shareholder Milestone Resources, to eject Sir Ian Cheshire and Sergio Bucher from the board.

Cheshire said: "In unprecedented market conditions the team has worked incredibly hard to build a format for the future and a comprehensive plan to reshape the business, which will put Debenhams on the road to recovery and future success". "Debenhams is a cautionary reminder of the criticality of the right leadership".

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Debenhams shares collapsed on Friday following the removal of the retailer's chairman and chief executive by Mike Ashley a day earlier. The stock fell 86 percent since the start of previous year.

At the shareholder meeting Mr Bucher received 44pc votes in favour of his re-election and, excluding Sports Direct and Landmark, the vote for him to continue on the board was about 99.6pc in favour.

Mr Ashley, who founded Sports Direct, has been taking an increased interest in Debenhams. Bucher, the CEO, will stay on in his management role.

He confirmed that Debenhams was in talks with its lenders about its £520m credit line.

But it had defied predictions from the City that it would issue a profit warning over the period.

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Debenhams is now on a desperate quest to drive down costs, and central to this is a plan to extend previously announced store closures from 10 to a possible 50 sites over the next three to five years.

The group has 11 outlets in Ireland, most of which it acquired from Roches Stores in 2006. Sports Direct could not be reached for comment.

"It is not tenable for the CEO not to be on the board". "The danger now is that Mike is allowed, in all the confusion, to buy the company on the cheap".

As a result, it added, the board and Mr Bucher had agreed that he should continue as chief "reporting to the board". "My first task is to meet with shareholders so that I understand any concerns that they may have". Terry Duddy, senior independent director, has been appointed interim chairman with immediate effect.

Debenhams chairman Sir Ian Cheshire has stepped down after another plunge in sales left the department store chain fighting for its survival.

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Debenhams has net debt of 286 million pounds and debt facilities of 520 million pounds.

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