Belfast Telegraph

Ex-BHS boss takes charge at fashion firm LK Bennett

By Ben Woods

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 - which has stores in Belfast and Banbridge - whose clothes and shoes sprang to prominence after being worn by the Duchess of Cambridge.

Just last month the doors shut on Northern Ireland's four BHS stores, including a large outlet in Belfast city centre.

Mr Topp 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 that 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.

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 firm for £1 to Retail Acquisitions, an unknown company spearheaded by serial bankrupt Dominic Chappell.

Speaking at the time, Mr Topp 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 Mr Chappell 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 £1.5m transfer of BHS money to Sweden.

Belfast Telegraph