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M&S director quits over poaching of Rightmove finance chief

A director of Marks & Spencer Group (M&S) is quitting the retailer’s board after being blindsided about the poaching of its new finance chief from another company he chairs.

Sky News has learnt that Andrew Fisher, a long-serving M&S non-executive director, only discovered late in the recruitment process that M&S intended to hire Alison Dolan from Rightmove, the listed digital property portal, as its chief financial officer.

Mr Fisher, who has been chairman of Rightmove since 2020, resigned from the M&S board on Tuesday last week.

The following day, M&S announced that Ms Dolan – a former executive at Sky News’ parent company – would join it.

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Mr Fisher has served on the M&S board since December 2015, meaning he was approaching the nine-year term limit for independence under Britain’s corporate governance code.

He has been its senior independent director for several years, playing a role in the board’s delivery of a notable turnaround in the fortunes of arguably Britain’s best-known retailer.

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A source close to Rightmove said although Mr Fisher’s tenure at M&S had been approaching its end, his position on its board had been rendered “untenable” by the poaching of Ms Dolan.

He will now step down early next month, and will not seek re-election to the M&S board at its annual shareholder meeting.

In its statement about her appointment, M&S said interim finance chief Jeremy Townsend would remain in place until May 2025 – almost a year – with Ms Dolan’s start date being “announced in due course”.

It was unclear whether Rightmove would hold her for the full duration of her contract, which would be relatively unusual given that she is not leaving to join a competitor.

One insider played down the idea of bad blood between the two companies as a result of Ms Dolan’s recruitment, but acknowledged that it was “not a great outcome” for Mr Fisher.

It is the latest stage in M&S’s management overhaul with co-CEO Katie Bickerstaffe also stepping down from the company, leaving Stuart Machin in sole executive charge.

M&S shares were trading on Wednesday at about 308p, giving it a market valuation of just over £6bn, while Rightmove has a market capitalisation of about £4.25bn.

Both M&S and Rightmove declined to comment.

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