Belfast Telegraph

Marks & Spencer executive Laura Wade-Gery will not return from maternity leave

Marks & Spencer said its high-flying executive Laura Wade-Gery will not return to work from maternity leave.

The high-street bellwether said Ms Wade-Gery - who was once tipped to take the helm at M&S - will step down from the board immediately and leave her role as executive director, multi-channel, by the end of September.

She was due to return to the company at the beginning of this month after extending her maternity from four months to a full year.

The 51-year-old will receive £380,000 pay-out from M&S over the next eight months if she does not accept a new position at another company which pays more.

She will also scoop £160,000 in shares, and could be in line for more rewards in 2017/18 if shares vest as part of a scheme linked to the future performance of the retailer.

"I've been away from the business for a year now, and that time has seen some significant changes in both my personal life and in the business," she said.

"I concluded that the time was right to move on from M&S. I wish Steve and all my colleagues and friends every success."

Ms Wade-Gery was handed a £4 million golden handshake from the high street giant when she joined from Tesco in 2011.

Her departure comes as newly-appointed chief executive Steve Rowe embarks on a major turnaround programme in a bid to shore up lacklustre sales at the company's beleaguered clothing division.

Less than two months into the role, Mr Rowe branded the performance of its clothing and home arm "unacceptable" after like-for-like sales plummeted 8.9% in the first quarter to July 2.

Last week he moved to cut costs, slashing 525 jobs from M&S head office.

The company said 400 permanent staff from its central London office will be relocated, with a number of IT and logistic roles moved to operations in Hemel Hempstead in Hertfordshire, and Middlesex.

The retailer said it plans to make the cuts through redundancies, reducing the number of contractors it works with, and "natural attrition" - not filling vacancies.

Speaking about Ms Wade-Gery's exit from the business, Mr Rowe said: "Laura has been a great colleague and has achieved much in her role heading our multi-channel business.

"I am grateful to Laura for her contribution and she leaves M&S with my personal thanks and best wishes."