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Wickes names Grimsey as new chief executive

Patrick Tooher

Wickes, the troubled DIY chain being investigated by the Serious Fraud Office and the Metropolitan Police, last night appointed Bill Grimsey as its new chief executive. He replaces Henry Sweetbaum, who resigned in June after disclosing that past profits had been overstated by pounds 51m.

Since July, Mr Grimsey has been managing director of WBS, the Wickes' retailing subsidiary at the centre of serious accounting irregularities. Previously he ran Wickes' joint venture in South Africa.

"I am delighted at Bill Grimsey's promotion," said Michael von Brentano, Wickes' chairman. "His appointment is also a reflection of his outstanding performance and dedication to the group since its problems emerged."

Nigel Whittaker, the former head of corporate affairs at retail group Kingfisher, is also joining the Wickes board as non-executive director with immediate effect.

News of the appointments came just a day after the SFO and the Metropolitan Police launched a formal investigation into the former senior management of Wickes about the overstatement of profits over six years.

Wickes is also trying to raise up to pounds 40m from a rescue rights issue to repair its balance sheet and pave the way for shares to be relisted. Dealings have been suspended since the irregularities first emerged in June.

It is unclear if Mr Whittaker's appointment will allay concerns among institutional investors. They are said to be unwilling to subscribe to any cash call unless two non-executive directors closely linked to Mr Sweetbaum stand down. Both men, Sanford Kaplan, 80, and Sanford Sigoloff, 65, are based in the US and remain on the board.

Apart from Mr Sweetbaum, four other senior executives have left in recent months. They include former finance director, Trefor Llewellyn, who now holds the same position at Caradon, the building materials group.

In a letter to sent to shareholders last month, Mr von Brentano said an independent accountants' report confirmed "serious mismanagement" and "deliberate misrepresentation" of certain rebate and contribution arrangements with Wickes' suppliers.

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