Financial News

  • 13 March 2014, 13:23

Ex-Trade Minister Takes Reins At Jack Wills

Lord Davies, the former trade minister, is to add a boardroom role at Jack Wills, the preppy British fashion brand, to his growing portfolio of jobs.

Sky News has learnt that Lord Davies is expected to be announced as Jack Wills' chairman on Thursday in a sign that the retailer is preparing for an eventual debut on the stock market.

Founded in 1999 by Peter Williams and Robert Shaw, two Devon-based friends, with an investment of just 40,000, the company is now estimated to be worth hundreds of millions of pounds.

Jack Wills, which has more than 80 stores on four continents, has styled itself as a premium retailer of casualwear, homewares and accessories using the slogan 'Fabulously British'.

In 2007, it sold a stake to Inflexion Private Equity, a firm which until January was in talks about buying a company co-founded by Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary.

Jack Wills prides itself on a commitment to "a sustainable British supply chain", sponsoring a flock of Wiltshire sheep to provide wool for its products.

Its existing board members include Rose Marie Bravo, a former Burberry director, and last year it appointed Wendy Becker, an ex-McKinsey and Vodafone executive, as its chief executive.

The presence of the two women on the Jack Wills board will be important for Lord Davies if the company decides to pursue a flotation in the coming years.

The peer served in the latter stages of Gordon Brown's government after a successful career in banking.

Since then he has led the drive to improve boardroom diversity, setting a target of having 25% of FTSE-350 directorships filled by women by next year.

He has also taken on a number of other roles, including a non-executive directorship at Diageo, the drinks giant, and the chairmanship of a company that is acquiring 315 branches from Royal Bank of Scotland under the name Williams & Glyn.

Jack Wills is said not to be in a hurry to secure a stock market listing, although its investors are understood to be watching closely the current deluge of retailers which are going public.

In the last year for which accounts are available, Jack Wills recorded a near-10m loss, after Ms Becker decided to close the sister brand Aubin & Wills.

Jack Wills could not be reached for comment.

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