Expert says WHSmith FD was ‘not forced out’

A leading executive recruiter has questioned widespread speculation that WHSmith’s former finance chief John Warren was forced to quit.

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WHSmith unexpectedly disclosed last week that former Thomas Cook UK CEO Alan Stewart would replace Warren, prompting market watchers to infer he was being made a scapegoat for the company’s poor performance. The high street retailer was £135m in the red in its last financial year.

The structure of Warren’s severance package lead one executive recruiter to suggest the decision to leave was mutual. Warren, on an annual salary of £325,000 plus a benefits package worth £74,000, will be paid in monthly instalments. Upon finding another job, these payments will stop.

‘John Warren was too good a finance director to be pushed, and the way his package was structured suggests that the decision to leave was a mutual one,’ the consultant said.

A spokeswoman for WHSmith said Warren’s departure was amicable and the result of the company winding down its international business.

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