Asos, the online fashion retailer, is seeking a new chairman as Brian McBride prepares to step off the catwalk after nearly six years at the helm.
Sky News has learnt that the company, which is now Britain’s biggest listed internet start-up, is interviewing candidates to replace Mr McBride.
The search, which is said to have been under way for some time, is thought to be being led by headhunting firm Russell Reynolds.
The chairmanship of Asos has become one of the most prestigious roles in the British fashion industry as a result of its stellar stock market performance.
Set up just 18 years ago, the company had a market value of £5.45bn at its closing price on Friday of 6632p.
That makes it more valuable than Marks & Spencer, the best-known clothing retailer in Britain, which underlined the gulf between the traditional retail industry and technology-led rivals this week when it said it would close 100 stores by 2022.
In the food retailing sector, Ocado, a start-up that was for many years derided by high street rivals, has also proved sceptics wrong by striking a series of major deals with international grocers.
Mr McBride’s departure from the Asos board will not leave him short of work.
A former boss of Amazon in the UK, he chairs Wiggle, the online bikes retailer, sits on the board of AO.com, the white goods e-commerce site, and is a senior adviser to Scottish Equity Partners, which has backed companies such as Skyscanner, the online travel group.
Asos’s success has spawned a huge number of imitators, with other online fashion start-ups now joining the race to go public.
Farfetch, which is expected to be worth more than $5bn, is expected to list in New York later this year, while the global luxury brands powerhouse LVMH this week confirmed a report on Sky News that it was investing in Lyst, another digital fashion platform.
The search for a new chairman of Asos will complete a shake-up of its top team, with Nick Beighton replacing founder Nick Robertson as chief executive three years ago.
Mr Robertson remains on the company’s board and continues to be a substantial shareholder.
Announcing its half-year results in January, Mr Beighton said:
“Our customer engagement is going from strength to strength and we’ve achieved more than a billion site visits for the first time.
“Alongside our investment in our people and our technology, we are accelerating investment in our distribution and logistics, laying the foundation for £4bn of net sales, a further step in building Asos into the world’s number one destination for fashion-loving 20-somethings.”
Asos’s success ranks it among the most important online ventures established in the UK since the original dotcom boom, despite a difficult couple of years in which it was hit by a string of profit warnings, slowing international sales and a fire at one of its warehouses in Yorkshire.