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Marks & Spencer boss Steve Rowe to step down after six years

Marks & Spencer boss Steve Rowe to step down from firm he joined when he was just 15 – as retailer embarks on part two of its ‘transformation’

  • Steve Rowe became chief executive of Marks & Spencer in 2016
  • The 54-year old worked his way up the ranks, having joined at just 15
  • He will be replaced by current chief operating officer Stuart Machin in May

Marks & Spencer chief executive Steve Rowe is to step down in May after six years at the helm of the retailer.

Rowe, 54, joined the firm straight out of school when he was just 15, and is credited with leading M&S though a transformational period of change and growth.

His tenure as boss saw the revival of the M&S food business, including the joint venture with Ocado, the return of profitable growth within its international business and an overhaul of its organisational structure.

Outgoing boss Steve Rowe: ‘It has been an enormous privilege to lead the business I love and have spent almost all my career working for’

Rowe, who rose to chief executive over more than three decades in different roles with the firm, also oversaw the closure of over 60 unprofitable ‘legacy’ stores.

He will stand down on 25 May at the company’s preliminary results ‘as part of a planned succession programme’, M&S said, with the top job handed to current chief operating officer Stuart Machin.

Rowe said it was ‘an enormous privilege to lead the business I love and have spent almost all my career working for,’ but that it was the ‘right time to pass on the baton’.

He added: ‘A piece of my heart will always remain with the M&S family, and I feel that we have done many of the hard yards to restore the business to what it should be.

‘I’m proud that I am leaving a very strong team who will lead it into the next growth phase. I wish them every success.’

Chairman of the 138-year-old retailer Archie Norman said outgoing boss Rowe ‘has been a magnificent servant of M&S’.

He added: ‘As we move into the next growth phase, he leaves a very strong team to take the business forward.’

Rowe’s replacement Machin will take on responsibility for day-to-day leadership of the business but will continue with his current duties, which include the leadership of the food unit.

He will also take on responsibility for HR and corporate communications, and will join the PLC Board with effect from 25 May.

Machin will be supported by co-chief executive Katie Bickerstaffe, who will also join the board

M&S said the latest changes marks the beginning of ‘the second phase of its transformation programme’.

In a statement, the firm’s board said: ‘Under the current team, the business has made remarkable progress and that continuity of strategy and leadership is advantageous.

‘Bringing together these three outstanding leaders will provide the stability, pace and bandwidth required to accelerate the pace of change.

M&S shares were down 1.1 per cent in late afternoon trading to 156.7p. They are down 34.1 per cent since the start of 2022.

Norman said: ‘Given the very strong recent progress we have made, keeping up the pace and momentum is critical.

‘We are delighted to have brought together three exceptional individuals who, with the support of the executive committee, will provide vision, energy and pace for this next phase.’