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Business

Karstadt hires former Woolworth manager as new CEO

Struggling German retail chain Karstadt appoints a former managing director at Woolworth South Africa as its new head. British-born Andrew Jennings is expected to replace Thomas Fox at the start of 2011.

Karstadt store on the high street

Karstadt narrowly escaped ruin a couple of months ago

The Karstadt board has agreed to appoint Andrew Jennings as the company's new CEO, despite his relative inexperience with the German language, according to media reports.

The iconic department store chain was rescued from insolvency in September by billionaire investor Nicolas Berggruen. Berggruen recently announced that Karstadt will collaborate with Californian designer Max Azria.

Billionaire investor Nicolas Berggruen

Nicolas Berggruen got his way on the new appointment

Jennings will replace Thomas Fox, who was seen as a restructuring specialist brought in to put the ailing retail giant back on its feet. A month ago, Berggruen had reportedly agreed to extend Fox's contract to help Karstadt complete its restructuring, but that plan appears to have changed.

Retired and stuborn

The appointment is considered a surprise, not least because the 62-year-old Jennings departed from Woolworth South Africa at the beginning of the year and was officially in retirement. Previous to his retirement, he had held a number of positions in the retail industry, including general manager of the luxury British department store Harrods.

Reports say he has a reputation as an expert in turning around companies, and for personal stubbornness. “He is the most difficult man I've ever had to deal with,” the magazine quoted another former Woolworth South Africa executive, Simon Susman.

Jennings was reportedly the personal first choice of Bergruen himself, while board chairman Alain Caparros had favored someone with more direct experience of the German retail industry.

Author: Ben Knight (dpa, AP)
Editor: John Blau

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