WH Smith kicks off process to recruit next chairman

Business

WH Smith has kicked off a search for a new chairman as the high street and travel hub-focused retailer continues to grapple with the impact of the pandemic.

Sky News understands that headhunters advising the chain have begun approaching prospective replacements for Henry Staunton, who has chaired the business since 2013.

Mr Staunton, a former ITV finance chief, has been on the WH Smith board since 2010, meaning he is ‘timed out’ in corporate governance terms under the terms of City best practice.

The appointment of Lygon Group to handle the search was disclosed in WH Smith’s annual report and accounts but is not thought to have been reported.

Mr Staunton is understood to have been asked to stay on as chairman by boardroom colleagues to help steer the company through the pandemic.

The search process is being led internally by Simon Emeny, the senior independent director.

Other board members include Maurice Thompson, the former chairman of Greensill, the collapsed supply chain finance provider.

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WH Smith has been hit hard by COVID-19 because of its exposure to the fortunes of the travel industry.

Last year, the activist investor Causeway Capital was reported to have taken a stake in the retailer.

WH Smith declined to comment further.

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