Debenhams chairman stands down after AGM vote

Debenhams shares plunge

Debenhams shares plunge

The board said it had "full confidence" in plans put in place by Mr Bucher and the management to reshape the business.

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

In addition to the 3.4 per cent drop in like-for-like sales over the six-week Christmas trading period, Debenhams reported a 5.7 per cent drop in like-for-like sales for the 18 weeks to 5 January 2019.

The turmoil comes at a tense time for Britain's shopping districts, as uncertainty surrounding Brexit and a shift to online purchases hammer brick-and-mortar retailers like Debenhams, which had a particularly tough Christmas season. The stalwart of British shopping districts, which has struggled to keep pace with Amazon.com Inc. and other online retailers, said discounting will likely hurt its gross margin in the first half, following three profit warnings past year.

Two major shareholders voted against the reappointments: Ashley, the CEO of Sports Direct International Plc, who holds a roughly 29 percent stake; and Landmark Group Inc., a retail and hospitality company based in Dubai, which owns 7 percent.

A total of 56% of shares voted were against both directors after a number of shareholders either withheld or failed to use their votes.

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Every director up for re-election received over 11% of votes against their re-election. He told the board after the group's shareholders' meeting that he had concluded "it is no longer possible" to remain on the board without the backing of key shareholders.

In September, Sports Direct ruled out a takeover bid, shortly after an outgoing director said the board had discussed combining Debenhams with the House of Fraser chain that Sports Direct bought out of administration in August for 90 million pounds.

"I recognise that individual shareholders have wished to register their dissatisfaction", said Duddy.

"We have taken decisive steps to maintain rigorous cost and capital discipline, and I am grateful to my colleagues for their hard work as we maintain a rapid pace of change". "My first task is to meet with shareholders so that I understand any concerns that they may have". The votes came after Debenhams turned down a 40 million-pound ($51.3 million) loan offer from Ashley.

Debenhams major shareholders include Sports Direct International PLC, with almost a 30% stake, Brandes Investment Partners Inc, with over 12% stake, Schroders PLC, with a 9.8% stake, and Milestone Resources Group Ltd, which holds a 7.3% stake.

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

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