Retail tycoon demands seat on board of department store’s parent, saying he needs to ‘protect my interest’
Department store group House of Fraser has given a frosty reception to embattled retail tycoon Kevin Stanford, insisting his surprise return to the company’s boardroom was “not welcome” and had been grudgingly accepted only because of a legal obligation.
Stanford, who is mired in a long-running legal battle with his creditors, is insisting on a seat on the board of parent company Highland because he is a 10% shareholder. However, the investment is disputed, with administrators to failed Icelandic bank Kaupthing believing it rightfully belongs to bank creditors.
A source close to House of Fraser said: “Kevin will not be welcome at the Highland board. He has provided nothing in the past and will have no operational input in the future – that is if he even turns up. He is there purely to meet a legal obligation.”
Stanford had not attended board meetings for several years. “Hopefully, he will keep his usual attendance record,” the source said.
The department store group was taken into private hands in 2006 in a £350m deal involving a consortium led by Baugur Group, the investment vehicle controlled by Icelandic tycoon Jon Asgeir Johannesson. Other consortium members included Stanford, the Scottish tycoon Tom Hunter and Don McCarthy, who is now House of Fraser’s executive chairman.
Johannesson, McCarthy and Stanford had a long history as close business partners, in particular through co-investments in the now-bust Mosaic Fashions, the high street fashion combine which then included the chains Oasis, Karen Millen, Warehouse, Coast, Warehouse, Principles and Shoe Studio.
After Baugur and FL Group, another Icelandic investor in Highland, the company’s share register is dominated by administrators to two other failed Icelandic banks Landsbanki and Glitnir. McCarthy, however, still leads the management team.
Stanford told the Guardian: “I am saddened with the remarks that are flying around about my return to the board. I am coming back to protect my interest. I imagine that these comment are from certain individuals who want to maintain strong links to the Icelandic banks.”