The luxury brand Burberry has appointed the former boss of B&Q owner Kingfisher as its new chairman.
Gerry Murphy, who currently chairs the food group Tate & Lyle and the European arm of the private equity firm Blackstone, will succeed Sir John Peace, who has been in the role since Burberry was spun out of the catalogue company GUS in 2002.
Peace said Burberry had found a “superb” candidate with extensive knowledge of the consumer sector. Murphy has had stints at the food group Greencore and the media group Carlton, and filled non-executive director roles at Alton Towers owner Merlin Entertainments and Reckitt Benckiser.
“I am confident he is the right choice to lead the board as Burberry embarks on a new chapter,” Peace said.
Murphy will take over at Burberry on 17 May, the day before the company is due to announce its full-year financial results. His appointment completes the overhaul of Burberry’s leadership team triggered by the exit of the former chief executive Angela Ahrendts five years ago.
Christopher Bailey, the group’s long-term design director, initially took over her role alongside his creative duties. But after shareholder concern about flagging sales, the former Céline boss Marco Gobbetti became chief executive last year. A new finance director, Julie Brown, came to Burberry from the medical supplies firm Smith & Nephew in early 2017.
Bailey initially stayed on as chief creative officer and president, but announced plans to leave the company in October. In a surprise move, the former Givenchy designer Riccardo Tisci, known for his sexy, urban styles, took over creative duties last month. Burberry said his “skill in blending streetwear with high fashion is highly relevant to today’s luxury consumer”.
Gobbetti, who previously worked with Tisci and Givenchy, has also raised eyebrows with a pledge to put Burberry more firmly at the luxury end of the retail market, pulling out of some department stores.
Murphy said: “Burberry is a unique British brand that I have admired for a long time, and I am looking forward to working with Marco Gobbetti and the board to guide the company through its next phase of growth.”
Steve Clayton, manager of a Hargreaves Lansdown fund that holds a stake in Burberry, welcomed Murphy’s appointment.
“I’m not expecting the introduction of Burberry-check power drills,” Clayton said. “Murphy has had a varied management career over the years, including his current day job at Blackstone. Given that everyone is currently linking Burberry to one deal or another, it doesn’t seem a bad idea to have a chairman that can spot a good deal from a bad one.”
It not clear whether the departure of 69-year-old Peace from Burberry will mark the end of his long career in the boardrooms of some of the UK’s biggest companies. At one point, Peace chaired three FTSE 100 businesses: Burberry, the credit-checking company Experian and the Standard Chartered bank.
At Burberry, he was forced to defend the decision to give Bailey the roles of chief creative designer and chief executive after Ahrendts quit to run Apple’s retail operations. He also came under fire over pay arrangements, with 52.7% of investors rebelling against Bailey’s pay deal at Burberry’s 2014 annual shareholder meeting.
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