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Can Ted Baker recover without its founder?

One analyst said that it would be "very positive for the business" if disgraced former chief executive Ray Kelvin returned

Ted Baker plc -

It’s hard to know what’s worst: a profit warning, a dividend suspension, or another chief executive disappearing within nine months?

That’s what markets are mulling over at Ted Baker plc (LON:TED), with the three announcements on Tuesday spelling the departure of chief executive Lindsay Page and executive chairman David Bernstein, resigning thanks to a black hole found in the fashion firm’s accounts.

On top of this, the firm warned that profits could fall 90% this year.

Russ Mould, investment director at AJ Bell, said: “If you thought Julian Dunkerton had a big challenge in trying to reset fashion retailer Superdry, imagine what it will take to sort out Ted Baker. It seems there is a complicated web of problems to navigate before trying to establish exactly what’s gone wrong.”

Ted Baker had seemed almost untouchable until the last year.

The lower-end-of-luxury fashion retailer’s shares have been tumbling ever since, losing 78% overall as they struggled to recover after the departure of its founder and former chief executive Ray Kelvin over misconduct allegations in March.

Kelvin, who founded the chain in Glasgow in 1988 and owns a 35% stake in the business worth more than £300m, was credited by one analyst at a broker as “having a lot of control over the brand, and being the main visionary for the entire business”.

Lindsay Page, who stepped up as chief executive in March and has since resigned, was seen as Kelvin’s right-hand man, and so questions were raised from the start over his ability to take over from Kelvin effectively.

“There’s something very difficult to articulate about why Ted Baker works,” said the analyst, “because a lot of people look at the price point and can’t see who the target customer is”.

The analyst added that Kelvin’s return would be “very positive” for the business, as it would bring some direction back to Ted Baker, but it is “difficult to see how he would without taking the company private”.

Looking across at Superdry PLC (LON:SDRY), whose co-founder Julian Dunkerton did return as chief executive in October, shareholders won’t be filled with confidence.

After share prices plunged 65% over 12 months and Superdry’s demotion from the FTSE 250, Dunkerton forced his way back earlier this year even though senior board members warned his return would be “extremely damaging”.

Something needed to change, as the company reported an £85.4mln loss for the 12 months to the end of April, compared with a profit of £65.3mln a year earlier, due to a £129.5mln writedown on the value of its stores.

Since then, revenues have continued to fall as Dunkerton implemented a plan to get “full control of the product and costs”, with a design-led approach and a shift away from reliance on constant promotions.

“The challenge is that Superdry has been very volatile for a very long time, and that was while Julian was still there – so him leaving wasn’t the biggest problem for them,” said an analyst.

But in any case. both companies have faced tough trading environments, with consumer confidence weakening and hitting high street shops, meaning nothing will be solved overnight for either whoever is in charge.

Quick facts: Ted Baker PLC

Price: 99.5 GBX

LSE:TED
Market: LSE
Market Cap: £183.66 m
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