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Ex-BHS chief operating officer Darren Topp takes reins at LK Bennett

Published 13/09/2016

Darren Topp is expected to be named the new LK Bennett chief executive
Darren Topp is expected to be named the new LK Bennett chief executive

Luxury fashion firm LK Bennett has announced the former boss of doomed retailer BHS as its new chief executive.

Darren Topp has taken the helm at the upmarket retailer whose clothes and shoes sprung to prominence after being worn by the Duchess of Cambridge.

He brings with him Michael Hitchcock, a former financial consultant at BHS who joins LK Bennett as chief financial officer after stints at Beales and Moss Bros.

The retailer said interim chief executive Robert Bensoussan, who took over in 2014, will also stay on as a non-executive director.

LK Bennett, which is owned by private equity group Phoenix, saw group like-for-like sales grow by 5% in the 52 weeks to August 1 last year, while operating profit rose 15% to £3 million over the period. Turnover slipped 2% to £93.6 million.

Mr Topp said: "We are delighted to be joining the company. LK Bennett is a fantastic business and we look forward to building on and continuing Robert's strategy of developing LK Bennett as a premium accessible luxury brand."

One of Sir Philip Green's former lieutenants, Mr Topp served as chief operating officer at BHS before being promoted to interim chief executive in March last year.

His rise came after Sir Philip flogged the embattled firm for £1 to Retail Acquisitions , an unknown company spearheaded by serial bankrupt Dominic Chappell.

Speaking at the time, Mr Topp - who spent more than 20 years at Marks & Spencer - said he was "really looking forward to working with our new owners", vowing to "return the business to its glory days".

BHS went bust in April and his relationship with Mr Chappell quickly soured, with Mr Topp later alleging to a panel of MPs investigating the chain's collapse that he had threatened to kill him.

''If you kick off about it, I'll come down there and kill you,'' he said Mr Chappell told him after he questioned the former racing driver over a £1.5 million transfer of BHS money to Sweden.

The department store's collapse has affected 11,000 jobs, 22,000 pensions, sparked a lengthy parliamentary inquiry and left its high-profile former owners potentially facing a criminal investigation.

The last remaining BHS stores were shut in August, bringing to an end 88 years of retail history.

Sir Philip has come under fire for taking more than £400 million in dividends from the chain, leaving it with a £571 million pension deficit, and for selling it to a man with no retail experience.

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