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Byline: JAMES FALLON
LONDON -- The management turmoil continued at Laura Ashley Holdings PLC Monday as the group appointed an acting managing director and replacements for two more senior executives who plan to resign.
The women's wear and home furnishings retailer has lost chief executive Jim Maxmin and human resources director Denise Lincoln in the last three months.
Maxmin resigned abruptly in early April after disagreements with the board over the level of future investment.
On Monday, Ashley appointed Graham Searle as acting managing director. Searle, who retired as group managing director of Dunhill Holdings PLC last year, joined Ashley as a non-executive director on June 1.
In his new position, he will act as managing director, reporting to executive chairman Hugh Blakeway Webb until a chief executive is found, the company said.
An Ashley spokesman said there is no time frame within which a chief executive might be appointed. The group is conducting a search, but the last time it needed to find a chief executive, it took more than a year to appoint Maxmin.
Blakeway Webb formerly was non-executive chairman and was appointed executive chairman following Maxmin's resignation. But he continues to be based mainly in the U.S. and analysts had predicted the group would have to appoint a full-time managing director or chief executive to oversee day-to-day operations in his absence.
Ashley also said its finance director, Andrew Higginson, will leave the group at the end of August to become finance director of the Burton Group PLC, another London women's and men's wear retailer.
Higginson joined the group in May 1990, shortly before Maxmin. He will be succeeded on an acting basis by Geoff Haslehurst, who currently is finance director of the U.K. retail division.
Alphons Schouten, the director of the group's fast-growing division in continental Europe, also has said he would like to resign later this year. He has not specified a date.
Steve Cotter was named head of worldwide retailing, to succeed Schouten. Cotter previously was head of retailing for the U.K. as well as Ashley's North American division, which has been struggling to return to profitability for two years.
Cotter was appointed to the Ashley board only last month.
Other board appointments announced Monday include Mike Overton as logistics director. He currently is head of manufacturing and sourcing at Ashley, where he has worked since 1989.
Clive Pyne joined the group as management information systems director. He previously was with accountants Coopers & Lybrand.
Ashley also named two non-executive directors -- Ann Iverson, who left as chief executive of Mothercare in May to become president and ceo of Kay-Bee Toy Stores, and Richard Wakeling, who recently retired as chief executive of metals group, Johnson Matthey PLC.