The head of JD Sports resigned with immediate effect just a few months after the retailer was fined more than £ 4 million for violating the rules of the competition regulator by secret meetings to take over.
The company said Peter Cowgill, JD’s outspoken chairman and CEO, who has led the group since 2004, will be temporarily replaced as CEO by Kath Smith, its chief independent officer, who has spent 25 years as CEO of Adidas and the Reebok Brand.
Cowgill, 69, who has sold more than £ 50 million in the company over the past two years, is leaving after trying to block board’s attempts to bring new blood and divide the role of chairman and chief executive officer. which Cowgill has been organizing together since 2014.
The company was also hit by a shareholder riot over salaries last year after it turned out that Cowgill received almost £ 6 million in bonuses, even though the company received more than £ 100 million in government support. The company did not say whether Cowgill would receive the paycheck.
Cowgill’s sudden departure will be a major blow to the company, where he oversaw a turnaround since returning to the CEO three years after graduating as CFO in 2001.
Under his supervision, the group expanded abroad, built a successful online store and entered the FTSE 100 rankings after acquiring a portfolio of brands including Sprinter, Go Outdoors and Fishing Republic.
JD Sports and Footasylum were fined a total of £ 4.7 million in February for sharing commercially sensitive information. An investigation by the UK Competition Authority accused them of deleting telephone records and found that their chairmen had held several secret meetings, including one captured in a video in a car park near Bury in Greater Manchester.
In 2019, JD bought the Footasylum trainer for £ 90 million under an agreement that was subsequently scrutinized by the Competition and Markets Authority.
Helen Ashton, who is JD’s interim chairwoman, said: “Under Peter’s leadership, the business has grown strongly into the world’s leading multi-channel retailer with a proven strategy and clear momentum.
“However, as our business has grown and become more complex, it is clear that our internal infrastructure, governance and management have not developed at the same pace.
“As we take advantage of the great opportunities ahead, the Board of Directors is committed to ensuring that we have the highest standards of corporate governance and control appropriate for FTSE 100 to support future growth.”
The company said it will continue the process of finding a CEO and will now start looking for a new inefficient chair.
JD’s majority shareholder, Pentland, said the new management and change in management structure were “necessary steps to ensure long-term and sustainable business growth and that JD accepts the control and responsibility that comes with being FTSE 100.”
Pentland said in a statement: “The JD team led by Peter Cowgill has achieved an unprecedented period of success over a number of years, leading to significant growth in the business and its operations.
“With such growth comes the responsibility to ensure that the company continues to develop its internal organization. As supportive and long-term shareholders, we realize that now is the right time for the company to meet its future ambitions under a new management structure and new management. ”
In February, JD said it was postponing the publication of its annual results, in part because it wanted to complete a review of its governance practices and policies. Announcement is expected next month.