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Marks & Spencer goes shopping for John Lewis CFO

Highly-rated John Lewis group finance director Helen Weir defects to rival Marks & Spencer in lead up to crucial trading period

MARKS & SPENCER has poached Helen Weir, one of the UK’s most high-profile finance chiefs, from rival John Lewis as it prepares for the crucial Christmas trading period.

Weir, the former head of Lloyds Banking Group’s retail division, will succeed Alan Stewart, who quit M&S in September to join Tesco three months earlier than expected, after the supermarket discovered a £250m black hole in its accounts.

John Lewis said Weir was expected to work her six month notice period, leaving Paul Friston, Marks & Spencer’s former director of group financial control, to perform the role on an interim basis until Weir joins next year. A process to appoint Weir’s successor would begin immediately, John Lewis said.

Bethany Hocking, an analyst at Berenberg cited by the Financial Times, described the appointment as a “strong hire”. “Given John Lewis host results meetings?.?.?.?for the sellside [analysts] Ms Weir is relatively well-known to the City,” she said.

Weir joined the employee-owned John Lewis Partnership, which encompasses John Lewis department stores and Waitrose supermarkets, in July 2012 from her previous role at Lloyds shortly after the appointment of António Horta-Osório as chief executive. She previously spent a decade at B&Q owner Kingfisher, where she served as finance director before joining Lloyds as FD in 2004.

M&S said Weir will receive a basic annual salary of £590,000. She will also receive a one-off payment of £188,500 to compensate for the difference between the pension schemes of M&S and John Lewis. A further award for 2014/15 annual bonus foregone may also be taken into consideration, M&S added.

Marc Bolland said he was “delighted” to appoint Weir as CFO. “She is extremely well qualified, and brings a wealth of relevant financial, retail and consumer experience. We look forward to her joining the M&S team,” he added.

Shares in the M&S closed up 0.9% at 473p yesterday.

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