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M&S joint chief executive Bickerstaffe to step down

Katie Bickerstaffe, the joint chief executive of Marks & Spencer (M&S), is to leave the company after just two years in the role.

Sky News can exclusively reveal that Ms Bickerstaffe is to leave M&S this year, handing over the sole reins to Stuart Machin.

Ms Bickerstaffe is leaving to focus on a portfolio career and has lined up a role as a non-executive director of Kingfisher, the DIY retailer which owns B&Q, a source close to it said on Wednesday evening.

Announcements are likely from both companies in the coming days.

She will depart M&S with the company in the best shape operationally and financially than it has been for many years.

Ms Bickerstaffe, who has led the digital, data and international aspects of M&S's business in the last two years, has amassed share options worth millions of pounds during her tenure.

Previously the boss of Dixons Carphone's business in the UK and Ireland, she went on to lead SSE's retail energy services division and its subsequent integration into Ovo Energy.

She is now a non-executive director of the England and Wales Cricket Board and of Barratt Developments, the FTSE-100 housebuilder.

Before becoming co-CEO alongside Mr Machin, she held other senior jobs at M&S, including as its strategy chief.

Shares in M&S have surged by 50% over the last year, reflecting investors' confidence in the strategy of its board, led by the retail veteran Archie Norman.

Mr Norman is himself expected to step down in the next couple of years.

Steve Rowe, the previous CEO, laid many of the foundations for the company's run around, shrinking its store footprint in the wake of the pandemic and reinvigorating its clothing business.

M&S's food operations have continued to perform strongly during the period, even as continued inflationary pressures have squeezed grocers' margins.

Ms Bickerstaffe's departure will again reduce the number of female bosses in Britain's blue-chip share index.

A source said on Wednesday evening that Kingfisher was "fortunate to have recruited her".

The news of her exit comes after a significant week for M&S, which won an appeal against a government decision to stop it tearing down its Marble Arch store in central London.

The decision of Michael Gove, the communities secretary, to prevent the demolition had sparked fury at M&S.

Mr Machin launched a fierce attack on the government's economic policy prior to the budget, saying that doing business in Britain was "like running up a downwards escalator with a rucksack on your back".

A number of leading retailers said in response to the budget that it had done nothing to alleviate the business rates burden they face.

Shares in M&S closed on Wednesday at 240.8p, giving it a market capitalisation of £4.85bn.

M&S declined to comment, while Kingfisher has been contacted for comment.