Julian Dunkerton and Peter Williams, the returning chief executive and new chairman of Superdry, addressed staff at the company’s head office on Wednesday as they tried to calm nerves after a boardroom coup which has wiped nearly £70m off the fashion brand’s market value in the last two days.
Shares in the company fell 7.8% to 460.8p, following Tuesday’s 8.8% drop after the re-election of Dunkerton by a narrow majority of shareholders, sparking the resignation of the chief executive, Euan Sutherland, and all but one other director.
Dunkerton, who co-founded the fashion label in 2003, was victorious after mounting a six-month campaign to get back in the boardroom at the struggling company.
He addressed about 500 staff gathered in the canteen of the firm’s Cheltenham HQ. A source said he had expressed his “passion for the business and said how he wanted to get the product back on song”.
Dunkerton became interim chief executive on Tuesday after his election at a special shareholder meeting but plans to bring in headhunters to search for a new boss to replace Sutherland, who had been running the company for the last five years. Dunkerton wants to focus on revamping the group’s product ranges, bringing in more choice and ditching plans for childrenswear.
Williams, the former Selfridges chief executive and former chairman of Boohoo, was put forward by Dunkerton to join the board. He is now chairman after being elected as a non-executive director by 51.15% of shareholders.
It is understood that Ed Barker, the company’s finance director, who resigned from the board alongside Sutherland, the chairman Peter Bamford and four non-executive directors, has agreed to stay on as an adviser to help finalise the group’s year-end results, which are due to be published next month.
Dunkerton, who owns 18% of Superdry, says an unsuccessful revamp under Sutherland led to a collapse in sales and profits at what used to be one of the high street’s most successful fashion brands.
The company’s shares have lost two-thirds of their value over the past year after a series of profit warnings, wiping more than £200m off the value of Dunkerton’s stake.
His return was backed by James Holder, a 10% shareholder who co-founded Superdry and designed some of its best sellers. Several institutional investors also backed Dunkerton.
John Stevenson, an analyst at Peel Hunt, said: “Short-term disruption is inevitable as [he] steadies the ship and starts to enact his recovery plans, which will involve a level of short-term costs ahead of any potential revenue recovery.” However, he added that because the majority of external investors had voted against Dunkerton’s return “Superdry will need to provide a clear view of the immediate future”.