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Ted Baker board director quits in latest senior departure

By Holly Williams, PA Deputy City Editor

Troubled retailer Ted Baker has lost another long-standing board member just a week after its chairman and chief executive quit.

The group said Ron Stewart has stepped down after nine years as a non-executive director of the group, most recently as the senior independent director, sending shares down a further 3%.

Ted Baker said it had hired Jon Kempster as an independent non-executive director with immediate effect.

Founder and former boss Ray Kelvin (right), who famously refused to have his whole face pictured, sparked a crisis when he stepped down in March (Ted Baker/PA)

Mr Kempster has held board roles at firms including Sports Direct International, Utilitywise and Wincanton.

It comes after shares tumbled to 16-year lows last week following the abrupt departure of chief executive Lindsay Page and chairman David Bernstein and the latest in a string of profit warnings.

The resignations marked the latest crisis at the firm, which stemmed from the departure of its founder and former boss Ray Kelvin in March.

The fashion firm – whose stock fell more than another 30% at one stage – has now seen more than three quarters of its stock market value wiped off since January, sparking rumours of opportunistic takeover bids.

Speculation is mounting that Mr Kelvin, who still owns 35% of the company, may be among those eyeing a possible takeover.

Ted has hired consultants Alix Partners to carry out a review of the group’s operational efficiency, costs and business model as part of an urgent recovery plan.

It now has finance director Rachel Osborne in place as interim chief executive and Sharon Baylay has been hired as acting chair.

They – and their permanent successors – face an uphill struggle to turn around its fortunes, with the firm admitting it has suffered the “most challenging” past 12 months in its history.

Last week’s resignations were announced as Ted Baker scrapped its shareholder dividend payout and said it is now expecting annual pre-tax profits of between £5 million and £10 million after worse-than-expected trading in November and over Black Friday.

Its trading troubles were also laid bare as figures revealed a 5.5% drop in retail sales with currency effects stripped out for the 17 weeks to December 7.

And only two weeks ago, bosses revealed they had uncovered that the group’s inventory had been overstated by between £20 million and £25 million.

Shares in the firm have been decimated after a year which has seen it post four profit warnings and lurch from crisis to crisis.

The firm came under significant pressure after founder and chief executive Mr Kelvin resigned from the company in March following allegations of inappropriate behaviour towards staff.

Mr Kelvin had already taken a step back from activities at the business in December 2018 after allegations of misconduct involving “forced hugs” and ear-kissing.

Mr Kelvin has denied any wrongdoing.