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Why has Andy Hornby quit as boss of resurgent Boots?

Well Andy Hornby, a former protege of Allan Leighton at Asda along with Sainsbury’s Justin King and others, probably deserves a break after being crucified in the banking crash of 2008 (he ran HBOS which collapsed owing twenty-odd billion) and then doing a sterling job at Alliance Boots which drove revenues up to nearly £9bn last year.

But it still seems a bit odd that he’s leaving.

Alliance Boots is the product of a merger between Italian entrepreneur Stefano Pessina’s wholesale pharma business Alliance and venerable UK high street chemist chain Boots. It’s now owned by private equity giant KKR which paid £11bn for it in 2007.

Hornby (no relation to Johnny Hornby of CHI) was rescued from apparent oblivion after the HBOS saga by Pessina who saw his combo of management and marketing skills as just the job for Boots. And he was proved right.

But supporters of Boots, which remains one of the biggest employers in Jesse Boot’s home town of Nottingham, will be alarmed by Hornby’s sudden departure.

The immediate future for UK retailers is grim and it’s even less good than that for companies that were bought with £11bn of borrowed money. KKR and Pessina might be thinking there’s somewhere cheaper to operate from than Nottingham.

In which case there will be a mother and a father of a fight, involving the UK government and all stops down.

Hornby was eviscerated by MPs and others because, as boss of HBOS, he failed to see (or do anything about) the crazy lending policies of head of corporate banking Peter Cummings. Cummings became a star when he backed Philip Green in his successful bid for Arcadia but then went on to back a whole load of far less successful ventures.

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If there’s trouble brewing at Boots Hornby’s best out of it.

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.
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