Luc Vandevelde was appointed Chairman and CEO of Marks and Spencer in February 2000. Marks and Spencer is a household name all over the world and one of the largest retailers in Britain.
Mission Impossible - that's what analysts called the job of reviving the fortunes of legendary British retailer Marks & Spencer. But after a few years at the helm, Luc Vandevelde managed to put the spark back into Marks & Sparks, as the 119-year-old retailer is known.
Dubbed "Cool Hand Luc", Luc Vandevelde turned the company round (for a while in any event). When he took up the mantle, he was faced with a despondent workforce, a plummeting share price and some tough decisions. Luc set about redefining the core values of this High Street giant.
By concentrating on the values that made M&S great, Luc could see a brighter future. By redefining the business model - reverting back to own-brand only and re-determining the fundamental strengths, especially the brand - a slow turnaround started to gather momentum. Staff were given a certain amount of empowerment and the entire atmosphere started to lift.
Commenting on his achievement of winning the "UK National Business Award" in 2003, he said : "It is important not to take yourself too seriously, and never should you become attached to the prestige of a position. Build a team you can trust, be a good listener and never forget the role of manager. Luc is inspired by every manager he ever had and sees the role of CEO as the Chief Enabling Officer".
His restructuring plan was brutal: He closed the retailer's 38 stores on the Continent, eliminating 4,000 jobs. He sold off such ailing U.S. businesses as the Brooks Brothers clothing chain and King's supermarkets, and he put the focus back on the core British market. Vandevelde also brought in creative talent to smarten up the dowdy clothing offerings.
Having left school at 18 to become an accountant, he joined Kraft General Foods, owners of well-known brands such as Maxwell House, Dairylea and Philadelphia, in 1971. During his 24 year career at the Group, he had experience of working in 30 countries and performed a number of operational, strategic and financial management roles, including the successful acquisition and integration of the Jacob/Suchard companies into Kraft after their acquisition in 1990.
He moved to Promodés in 1995 initially as President and Chief Operating Officer and latterly as Chairman during which time he has built the company into an international retailer with operations across Europe, Asia and South America. Under his leadership, sales and profits have both increased significantly and the market capitalisation of the Company has grown sixfold.
He was a driving force behind the merger of Promodés with Carrefour announced in August 1999, which will create the biggest retailer in Europe and the second largest in the world after Wal-Mart. He was appointed the number two executive in the enlarged group.
Luc is married and has one son. On 1 September 2003, he stepped down as Chief Executive of Marks & Spencer. The same day, he announced that he had accepted an invitation to join the Board of Vodafone Group plc (largest mobile phone company in the world) as a Non-Executive Director.
Commenting on the appointment, Lord MacLaurin of Knebworth DL, Chairman of Vodafone, said "I am delighted that Luc is joining Vodafone. He brings with him many years of experience and a track record of success gained in retailing and consumer goods, and has a deserved reputation as an international businessman of considerable standing. His financial, management and marketing skills in international business will be of great value to the Board".
In addition to his roles at Marks & Spencer and Vodafone, he was Managing Director of Change Capital Partners, a £600 million private equity fund. The fund is backed by the Halley family, the founders of the Promodes retail group. Luc Vandevelde has now left Marks & Spencer and Vodafone.
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