Chief of ASOS, British Online Retailer, Steps Down


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Nick Robertson had been chief of ASOS for 15 years.

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Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

LONDON — The chief executive of ASOS, Britain’s largest online-only fashion retailer, stepped down on Wednesday.

The departure ends a 15-year run for the executive, Nick Robertson, who turned a fast-fashion start-up into an Internet force with a devoted following of 20-somethings and a host of celebrity fans including the supermodel Gigi Hadid, the pop singer Taylor Swift and the first lady, Michelle Obama.

Analysts said Mr. Robertson’s stepping aside — he will remain a nonexecutive board member — had been expected.

But the management shake-up caps a turbulent 18 months for the company that included a series of profit warnings and a 62 percent drop in the share price. Last year, a fire at its main warehouse in Barnsley, in northern England, cost the group 30 million pounds, or about $46 million.

The chief operating officer, Nick Beighton, takes over immediately as chief executive, the company said in an online statement.

The news sent the company’s shares down as much as 6 percent early Wednesday but they later rebounded, rising 1 percent in afternoon trading in London.

“This is a transition that has been well planned and to some extent has likely been effective internally for some time,” Simon Bowler, an analyst in London for Exane BNP Paribas, wrote in a note to clients.

Mr. Robertson, 48, co-founded ASOS in 2000, under the name As Seen On Screen, offering inexpensive versions of designer outfits seen on celebrities.

Last year, the company posted sales of almost £1 billion, despite cutting prices internationally in a bid to offset currency fluctuations and hefty costs for its global expansion. ASOS also faced heightened competition from newcomers in the market, like Boohoo.com and Zalando, and from brick-and-mortar retailers investing in and expanding their own online operations.

ASOS ships worldwide and sells more than 850 brands along with its own range of clothing and accessories. It has attracted an army of mostly young, cost-conscious followers, thanks to its social media campaigns, catwalk-inspired offerings from its own brand and mix of established international brands and smaller, local fashion labels.

Mr. Robertson was not available for comment on Wednesday. Eight months ago, he raised £20 million by selling part of his stake in the company. He has retained an 8.4 percent holding.



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