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M&S finance chief quits to join Primark-owner AB Foods

·2-min read
FILE PHOTO: A man leaving a Marks & Spencer store in London

By Eva Mathews and James Davey

(Reuters) -Marks & Spencer said on Thursday finance and strategy chief Eoin Tonge would leave the British clothing and food retailer to take up a role at Associated British Foods (ABF), owner of budget fashion chain Primark.

Tonge, 49, who missed out on the CEO job at M&S following Steve Rowe's retirement in May, will join AB Foods no later than February 2023, succeeding John Bason, who is retiring as finance director at the end of April 2023 after 23 years.

As per his notice period, Tonge will stay at M&S through its first half results in November.

While M&S is one of the most famous names in British business, AB Foods is a far bigger company, spanning retail, food manufacturing, sugar, agriculture and ingredients. Its market value of 13.3 billion pounds ($15.9 billion) dwarfs M&S's 2.8 billion pounds.

Shares in AB Foods were up 1.3% at 1046 GMT, while M&S was down 1.2%, extending 2022 losses to 39%.

"We think Eoin is a good choice given his experience in both food and clothing," said analysts at Barclays.

Tonge joined M&S just over two years ago and helped steer the group through the COVID-19 pandemic. He was previously FD of Irish food group Greencore.

"Our financial controls, reporting, and financial discipline are in a far stronger place than when he arrived," M&S Chairman Archie Norman said.

AB Foods CEO George Weston said Tonge was an "ideal successor" to Bason.

On his retirement Bason, 65, will become chairman of a newly constituted Primark Strategic Advisory Board, which will provide external expertise to Primark CEO Paul Marchant and the Primark leadership team.

AB Foods said that since its June 20 update, trading has been in line with management expectations and its full year outlook was unchanged.

($1 = 0.8366 pounds)

(Reporting by Eva Mathews in Bengaluru and James Davey in London; Editing by Uttaresh.V and Bradley Perrett, Kirsten Donovan)

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