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How Public Relations Did For The Top Two Retailers In Britain

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How public relations did for the top two retailers in Britain

Yesterday Mike Ashley said he was leaving the board of Frasers. Today JD Sports outlined its compensation deal for the unceremoniously ousted Peter Cowgill.

Both decisions seem to owe more to public relations than business performance.

It may not be the PR people calling the shots, but the moves are plainly about optics, about how things look rather than how they are.

The Daily Telegraph has Ashley as a “flawed genius who exemplified Britain’s once-swashbuckling retail trade”.

Cowgill took JD Sports from nothing to a FTSE 100 giant worth towards £10 billion at one point.

He is now a “consultant” to the business, but that’s mostly just for show too.

Fierce rivals, each can claim to be the most successful retailer of the age. In Ashley’s case, the near saviour of the UK high street.

Cowgill had to go for flouting corporate governance rules, or at least conventions. He was just too powerful, went the complaint, though investors can hardly have objected to what he did for them.

The Ashley situation is more complicated. Some quarters assume he will still be in charge of the business he majority owns, giving instruction from behind-the-scenes to son-in-law Michael Murray, the CEO.

The feeling is that taking Sports Direct up market as planned will only work if Nike, Adidas and the rest believe in the idea enough to offer up the newest lines.

Ashley, a unwoke bloke, a power-drinking pub-fireplace vomiter, perhaps didn’t offer the suits proper reassurance that the Sports Direct makeover is real.

That neither men suit the City’s rule book or its etiquette doesn’t say much for the City.

Cowgill is a good bloke. With Ashley, it is harder to say.

Both are plainly brilliant. The PR gain from them moving along can’t match the business loss.

Press release of the day

Should executives get paid for hitting ESG targets?

This from the University of Manheim says those do score higher on environmental tests.

That isn’t surprising, but perhaps should become standard.

The release doesn’t tell us if those companies are actually more environmentally friendly or just look like they are.

Stories that will keep rolling

1) Will there be enough Hollywood blockbusters this year to save Cineworld?

2) Will the Bank of England go for it on rate rises, or play it safe?

3) Are there signs that JD Sports is already missing Peter Cowgill?

4) Where in the Eurozone is consumer confidence lowest/highest?


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