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Five questions answered on Sir Stuart Rose’s new appointment at Ocado

Former head of Marks and Spencer appointed.

Today Sir Stuart Rose, former head of Marks and Spencer, has been named as the new Chairman of online supermarket Ocado. We answer five questions on Rose’s new role.

Who is Rose replacing at Ocado?

Rose will replace retiring chairman Michael Grade from the 10th of May following the online retailers Annual General Meeting.

As Chairman Rose will be tasked with turning the company around and ensuring the loss-making retailer becomes profitable as it expands its business with a new distribution centre in Warwickshire, which will open sometime this year.

How is Ocado doing in the current retail market?

Founded in 2000, Ocado is yet to make a profit. Most notably in November last year the company managed to raise £36m in share placing that enabled it to agree a vital refinancing with banks on £100m of debt it used to pay for the new distribution facility.

Its share price has fallen 47 per cent from 180 to 95 since it floated in 2010. In early trading today shares in Ocado rose 7 per cent.

What are Rose’s credentials for making a success of Ocado?

In 1972 Rose first worked at Marks and Spencer as a management trainee leaving in 1989. He then took up the role of Chief Executive of The Burton Group.

He rejoined Marks and Spencer in 2004 but courted controversy when he held both the Chairman and Chief Executive roles, which breaks corporate governance rules. However, during his time at the company he had successes such as the revival of Marks and Spencer’s clothing range and the successful TV ads featuring Twiggy and Erin O’Conner and Mylene Klass. He is said to not believe in retirement.

What has Ocado said about its new Chairman?

"Sir Stuart is joining Ocado as we enter a hugely exciting period, with a near doubling of our capacity. We are looking forward to benefiting from his extensive retail experience and counsel," said Ocado chief executive Tim Steiner.

What are retail analysts saying? 

There has been speculation Marks and Spencer could enter a take over bid of Ocado as they have show interest in the past, but nothing official has been said.

Shore Capital analyst Clive Black told The Telegraph; "We are delighted to see Sir Stuart back in the sector. However, the evidence tends to suggest that bad companies will always beat good management.”


Heidi Vella is a features writer for

Photo: Getty Images
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How can Britain become a nation of homeowners?

David Cameron must unlock the spirit of his postwar predecessors to get the housing market back on track. 

In the 1955 election, Anthony Eden described turning Britain into a “property-owning democracy” as his – and by extension, the Conservative Party’s – overarching mission.

60 years later, what’s changed? Then, as now, an Old Etonian sits in Downing Street. Then, as now, Labour are badly riven between left and right, with their last stay in government widely believed – by their activists at least – to have been a disappointment. Then as now, few commentators seriously believe the Tories will be out of power any time soon.

But as for a property-owning democracy? That’s going less well.

When Eden won in 1955, around a third of people owned their own homes. By the time the Conservative government gave way to Harold Wilson in 1964, 42 per cent of households were owner-occupiers.

That kicked off a long period – from the mid-50s right until the fall of the Berlin Wall – in which home ownership increased, before staying roughly flat at 70 per cent of the population from 1991 to 2001.

But over the course of the next decade, for the first time in over a hundred years, the proportion of owner-occupiers went to into reverse. Just 64 percent of households were owner-occupier in 2011. No-one seriously believes that number will have gone anywhere other than down by the time of the next census in 2021. Most troublingly, in London – which, for the most part, gives us a fairly accurate idea of what the demographics of Britain as a whole will be in 30 years’ time – more than half of households are now renters.

What’s gone wrong?

In short, property prices have shot out of reach of increasing numbers of people. The British housing market increasingly gets a failing grade at “Social Contract 101”: could someone, without a backstop of parental or family capital, entering the workforce today, working full-time, seriously hope to retire in 50 years in their own home with their mortgage paid off?

It’s useful to compare and contrast the policy levers of those two Old Etonians, Eden and Cameron. Cameron, so far, has favoured demand-side solutions: Help to Buy and the new Help to Buy ISA.

To take the second, newer of those two policy innovations first: the Help to Buy ISA. Does it work?

Well, if you are a pre-existing saver – you can’t use the Help to Buy ISA for another tax year. And you have to stop putting money into any existing ISAs. So anyone putting a little aside at the moment – not going to feel the benefit of a Help to Buy ISA.

And anyone solely reliant on a Help to Buy ISA – the most you can benefit from, if you are single, it is an extra three grand from the government. This is not going to shift any houses any time soon.

What it is is a bung for the only working-age demographic to have done well out of the Coalition: dual-earner couples with no children earning above average income.

What about Help to Buy itself? At the margins, Help to Buy is helping some people achieve completions – while driving up the big disincentive to home ownership in the shape of prices – and creating sub-prime style risks for the taxpayer in future.

Eden, in contrast, preferred supply-side policies: his government, like every peacetime government from Baldwin until Thatcher’s it was a housebuilding government.

Why are house prices so high? Because there aren’t enough of them. The sector is over-regulated, underprovided, there isn’t enough housing either for social lets or for buyers. And until today’s Conservatives rediscover the spirit of Eden, that is unlikely to change.

I was at a Conservative party fringe (I was on the far left, both in terms of seating and politics).This is what I said, minus the ums, the ahs, and the moment my screensaver kicked in.

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog.