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Home Retail Group expected to appoint John Walden as new CEO

The owner of Argos is close to naming the chain's boss as its new group chief executive, a move that will also hand him oversight of the DIY retailer Homebase.

Sky News understands that Home Retail Group is poised to end a four-month search for a successor to Terry Duddy, the long-serving executive who announced last autumn that he would step down this year.

Insiders said on Monday that John Walden, who joined Argos as managing director nearly two years ago, was the board's preferred candidate to take the helm. An announcement could be made alongside Home Retail's Christmas trading update on Thursday, they said.

Argos is understood to have seen reasonable growth in like-for-like sales during the crucial festive period despite experiencing some problems with its website caused by an upgrade undertaken in mid-December, according to one insider.

If he does get the nod for the top job, it would reflect early signs of success in Mr Walden's efforts to reinvigorate Argos, the catalogue chain which has struggled in the face of competition from Amazon and other Internet-based retailers.

Last autumn, Home Retail announced the launch of a trial with eBay, the online auctioneer, that involves 150 Argos shops being used as collection points for selected eBay merchants.

Mr Walden previously worked at BestBuy, the US electrical goods group, and Sears. His nomination as group chief executive remains subject to final board approval and could be delayed beyond this week, another source said.

A Home Retail spokesman declined to comment.

Argos's Christmas sales performance is likely to mark it out as one of the high street's more successful general merchandise retailers during the period.

Major losers included Debenhams, which on Monday saw nearly 5% of its shares acquired by Sports Direct International, the chain led by Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley.

Source : Mark Kleinman - Sky News

14 January 2014
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