Tuesday 12 December 2017

New generation takes the helm as rift ended at Shaws dynasty

Shaws department store
Shaws department store
John Mulligan

John Mulligan

CONTROL of the Shaws department store dynasty has been passed to "the next generation", the Irish Independent has learned.

It comes after two sides of the family set aside differences that had previously threatened to split the business apart.

Four long-standing directors have resigned at the chain, which operates 15 department stores around the country.

Trevor Shaw, the father of the current Shaws managing director Jonathan Shaw, is among those who have resigned.

Trevor's brother, Mervyn (85), has also stepped down.

"While retired, both my father and uncle will continue to retain a keen interest in the progress of the company and will still enjoy visiting stores, and, from time to time, acting as ambassadors on behalf of the business," Jonathan Shaw said in a statement issued to the Irish Independent.

The chain's long-standing chairman, Sidney Perry (SP) Finlay, also resigned his role, having been connected to the business for 55 years.

Mr Finlay (79) had previously been finance director with the group. The group appointed Stephen Cloonan (58) as its new chairman.

For decades, three brothers - Mervyn, Trevor and Billy - controlled Shaws, having an equal share in the business.

When Billy Shaw passed away, the bulk of his 30pc share in the retailer was passed to his sons, Norman and Clive.

A 7pc chunk of it was directed to be sold, with the proceeds distributed to his wife and three other children.

The company made what Mrs Shaw and her children considered to be a derisory offer for the 7pc stake, sparking a family bust-up that put the retailer on the brink of the unthinkable - an outsider becoming a shareholder.

That side of the family, including Clive and Norman Shaw, then indicated to the board of Shaws six years ago that they wanted to sell their entire interest in the retailer.

The board declined the offer to purchase it, prompting the commencement of a valuation process that could have led to the stake being eventually sold to a third-party.

But while some tensions still persist, a détente was reached as the downturn intensified and retail businesses were hard hit.

Challenged trading coupled with negative sentiment towards Ireland at the time would have severely dented any potential valuation of the business. Jonathan Shaw confirmed that there has been no change in the ownership structure within the past six years.

"Our new chairman brings to us a wealth of experience and knowledge having acted as CEO, chairman, or director of, or an adviser to, a number of companies in a number of different sectors, including retail," said Jonathan Shaw.

Mr Cloonan has varied business interests.

He's a non-executive director of the Campbell Bewley Group. He's also the non-executive chairman of three Dublin-based firms - advertising and brand agency Firstcom; aircraft simulator training firm Simtech; and Mapflow.

He also advises United States firms, and was the chief executive of electrical retailer Harry Moore from 1983 to 1997 after being involved in a management buy-in. Shaws said that the changes mark the "passing of the baton to the next generation".

The chain also said that like-for-like sales at its stores rose 3pc in the financial year to the end of January as the recovery accelerated.

But Jonathan Shaw declined to give further details, or give any indication of profitability. The stores generate revenues of over €40m a year, however.

About 500,000 people visit Shaws stores every month, and the group employs close to 1,000 people.

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