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SuperGroup CEO’s plan to whip firm into shape starts with permanent role for interim CFO

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Wharton was appointed Interim CFO when his predecessor, who had been FD for almost three years, was declared bankrupt following a tax dispute relating to income earned before he joined SuperGroup. 

Wills was suspended from his £500,000-a-year job and forced to step down immediately from its board after revealing that the UK tax authorities had obtained a personal bankruptcy order against him on 10 February. This was later annulled after a short hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice.

At the time, Wills called HMRC “draconian” in its methods and said the taxman had acted prematurely. He suggested that he had put all his energy into work and not enough into his own personal situation – something he should have fixed much sooner, he added.

SuperGroup shares went down by three per cent in morning trading on the London Stock Exchange.

The company insisted it was a personal matter and unrelated to the financial position of the business.

“I started covering retail in 1987 and I have never heard of anything like this before,” said Tony Shiret, retail analyst at Espirito Santo, who said he was “shocked” to learn of Wills’ bankruptcy. He added that SuperGroup had a history of profit warnings and departing directors.

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Wills himself joined SuperGroup in 2012 after its finance director quit following a profit warning triggered by an “arithmetic error”. CEO Julian Dunkerton stepped down in 2014 to rebrand the company, while in 2015 the company’s chief operating officer, Susanne Given, left to “explore other opportunities”.

According to RBC analyst Richard Chamberlain, the issue with SuperGroup is that it has expanded too quickly, without the supporting infrastructure. He suggested that the group had over-promised and under-delivered.

Shiret added that Euan Sutherland – who described previous events as unfortunate announcements – was brought in to stamp out “that kind of stuff”.

He was adamant that he business was in more control, and that the Wharton’s upgrade from interim CFO to a permanent role would only help the company moving forward.

In an announcement, Peter Bamford, chairman of SuperGroup, said Wharton had already had a highly positive impact. His deep financial management skills and broad retail and business experience will be great assets to SuperGroup, he added.

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