Wh Smith shares slumped yesterday after chief executive Kate Swann announced she is to quit the retail chain in June after nine years at the helm.
One of the sector's most respected bosses, Ms Swann announced her departure at the same time as a 10% hike in WH Smith's annual profits to £102m. This compares to the £135m loss it made in 2004.
The chain currently has 618 high street stores and another 619 at travel sites such as airports and train stations.
Ms Swann will hand over the reins to Steve Clarke, who is managing director of the retailer's high street division.
Shares fell 7% as the City reacted to Ms Swann's departure plans.
Kate Calvert, a retail analyst at Seymour Pierce stockbrokers, said Ms Swann had done a "fantastic job orchestrating the turnaround of WH Smith".
She added: "This is a blow, though she is handing over to a safe pair of hands in Steve Clarke."