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WH Smith names new chairwoman

Annette Court was previously chief executive of the Direct Line Group and sat on the executive management committee of its then-owner Royal Bank of Scotland.

WH Smith has announced the appointment of Annette Court as its new chairwoman following Henry Staunton’s decision to retire after nine years in the position. 

The high street chain said Court, who is currently chairwoman at insurer Admiral Group, will join the board as a non-executive director and chair-designate on September 1 before succeeding Staunton on December 1.

Court was previously chief executive of the Direct Line Group and sat on the executive management committee of its then-owner Royal Bank of Scotland

She joins chief executive Carl Cowling at the head of WH Smith, which has more than 560 stores across its UK high street and more than 580 in its travel stores at airports, hospitals, railway stations and motorway service areas, while there are around 560 sites in the high street business.

Court said: “I am very excited to have the opportunity to succeed Henry as chair of WH Smith in its 230th year.

“I look forward to working with Carl and the management team to grow the business and take advantage of the many exciting opportunities that lie ahead.”

Cowling added: “Henry has played a key role in contributing to the company’s success and I would like to wish him well for the future.” Staunton said it has been a “privilege” to serve as chairman.

The group reported pre-tax profits of £18m for the six months to the end of February, compared with a £38m loss in the same period a year earlier. The travel business saw a 125% rise in revenue to £338m over the six months.

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