Kingfisher Plc (KGF)’s Chief Operating Officer Euan Sutherland, regarded by analysts as a possible successor to Chief Executive Officer Ian Cheshire, is leaving the U.K. retailer to run the Co-Operative Group Ltd.
The departure of the 43-year-old, who joined the London- based company in 2008 as head of the B&Q home-improvement chain, “will be a disappointment to investors,” Jamie Merriman, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein in London, said in a note today.
Sutherland was named COO in February and only joined the main board of the retailer in October. He will remain in his current role until March 2013 to allow an “extensive handover” of responsibilities, Kingfisher said today in a statement.
Sutherland was “viewed as a credible successor to Ian Cheshire,” Freddie George, an analyst at Seymour Pierce in London, said by e-mail. “He was, in our view, a major contributory factor in the recovery of the U.K. business over the last five years and more latterly was responsible for the company’s key self-help initiatives.”
Kingfisher shares fell as much as 0.9 percent in London and were little changed at 276.8 pence as of 8:20 a.m.
Cheshire praised the contribution of Sutherland in almost five years at the company. The executive “played an important role in the successful development of the group,” he said.
Kingfisher “has great strength and depth in its management, and I will personally be involved in the transition as Euan’s responsibilities are handed over,” the CEO said.
Kingfisher is among consumer-goods companies that have been squeezed as challenging markets in the U.K. and mainland Europe reduce sales. It reported a decline in third-quarter profit Nov. 29 as earnings fell in France, where it operates Castorama and Brico Depot home-improvement stores, as house building slowed.
Sutherland, who has been a non-executive director of mutually owned retailer Co-Op’s food business for two years, “brings with him considerable experience of the strategic leadership needed in complex customer-facing businesses, across a variety of retail sectors,” Len Wardle, chairman of the Co- Operative Group, said in a separate statement.
“I am very pleased to be given the opportunity to lead the organization at this important time,” Sutherland said in Co- Op’s statement. “The challenge is to build upon the success that has been achieved in recent years.”