Leadership vacuum emerges at Asos as CEO quits

Online fashion website Asos has found itself leaderless just as a series of crises threaten to undermine a successful business model that has powered the business to new heights in the digital-first economy.

News that chief executive Nick Beighton had quit with immediate effect, ending a 12-year tenure at the company – including six in the chief exec hot seat – sparked alarm among investors and comes just one month before chairman Adam Crozier departs to assume the role of BT chairman.

Asos reported profits of £177m in the year to the end of August on the back of an online shopping bonanza, significantly below analysts’ expectations of £186m, highlighting vulnerability to a confluence of factors from inflation and logistics travails to staffing shortages and increased costs attributed to Brexit.

Recounting past successes, Beighton said: “I have enjoyed every moment of my 12 years at Asos. When I joined, there were fewer than 200 people and we had annual sales of around £220m. I leave a business reporting turnover of almost £4bn, with more than 3,000 fantastic Asos-ers delivering for 26 million customers in 200 markets around the world.”

Beighton’s departure has sparked an immediate hunt for a successor, while an internal reorganization sees chief financial officer Mat Dunn take on the additional role of chief operating officer to lead the business on a day-to-day basis. Meanwhile, Katy Mecklenburgh, currently director of group finance, will become interim chief financial officer.

Crozier is to be replaced by Ian Dyson, currently Asos’s senior independent non-executive director and audit committee chair, on November 29 in a previously-announced succession.

Crozier said: “On behalf of the board, I want to thank Nick Beighton, who has played a pivotal role in the development of Asos over the past 12 years, and we wish him well for the future. The board is delighted that Mat has agreed to become COO and that Ian will chair Asos for the next three years. Asos is a business with a very exciting future, and I am confident that it will deliver against its ambitions.”

Asos shares plunged 15% this morning as news of the leadership vacuum broke, before staging a partial recovery in volatile trading to stand 6% off the pace.

Asos is in the throes of an international expansion drive, which has seen it double down on global marketing efforts.