Debenhams announces a new chief executive

Tom Belger
Finance and policy reporter
Debenhams has a new chief executive. Photo: Matthew Horwood/Getty Images

Debenhams has unveiled a new chief executive, appointing turnaround specialist Stefaan Vansteenkiste as head of the retailer in a challenging period for the department store chain.

The retailer also said its chairman Terry Duddy will step down from the board in September.

Vansteenkiste joined the company in April as chief restructuring officer, and previously focused on turning around struggling organisations at professional services firm Alvarez & Marsal.

"The retail industry faces a challenging environment and everyone at Debenhams acknowledges that,” he said in a statement.

“But we have a clear plan and Debenhams has a great team of people who are committed to delivering it.

“I am very excited about Debenhams' strong prospects and with a restructured balance sheet there is a robust platform from which to build a turnaround, based on Debenhams' clear brand focus, broad customer reach, and differentiated product offer."

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Debenhams has closed stores as it struggles with the shift away from the high street. Photo: Andrew Matthews/PA Images via Getty Images

“He is a seasoned CEO and retail operator, having served as CEO or advisor at a number of large retail and consumer companies,” the company said.

Debenhams has a long history in Britain dating back to around 1806. But it has been struggling in recent years with the decline of shopping at bricks-and-mortar stores as consumers have shifted online. The retailer has also faced competition from cheaper rivals.

Debenhams previously announced a wave of store closures, putting a significant number of jobs at risk as it looks for a way to put it on a sustainable footing.

The company fell into administration and was taken over by its lenders in April this year, giving it significant new funding after its shares plunged in value.

It rejected a £200m bid by Sports Direct chief Mike Ashley, sparking a bitter war of words with the combative businessman.