Richard Greenbury - Marks and Spencer

Marks and Spencer

Greenbury's stay at Lilywhite’s was short lived. He later accepted a management trainee position at Marks and Spencer, who fortunately did not require A-levels for their programme. His hard work was soon recognized by Simon, Lord Marks, and he was taken under the wing of the founding father’s son. Mark's dubbed Greenbury “Big Fellah”, and soon moved him to head office as a trainee merchandiser and personal assistant to his son in law.

It was in men’s knitwear where Greenbury made his name in the early 1960s, shortly after his marriage to first wife Siân Hughes (1959). As noted by Marks, ‘Rick’ as he soon became known, was a retailer through and through. Spotting the trend towards casual menswear Greenbury formed a strong friendship with Harry Djanogoly, who ran the knitwear company Nottingham Manufacturing, and transformed the then unknown aisle in every Marks and Spencer store into a profits power house for the company. This reputedly got Djanogoly his KBE and Greenbury his promotion.

By 1972, Greenbury had been made the youngest director in the company’s history, only twenty years after being welcomed by the business. Then, at the age of forty-one, Greenbury was made a managing director, and by 1978 he had worked in every area of the business; including food, property, and, of course, clothing. In 1984, shortly after becoming chairman, Derek Rayner decided it was time to outline his immediate successor, and, in 1988, Greenbury took his place as chief executive. In 1991, he was promoted again, becoming executive chairman, in keeping with Marks and Spencer's business traditions.

Despite later criticism, when the company smashed the £1 billion profit barrier in 1997, the City sang Greenbury's praises; although the impact of his tenure became the subject of intrigue in the aftermath of the downturn. For every year that Greenbury was in charge, Marks and Spencer held more than twice the clothing market of any other high street name, and even after the crash, and Greenbury's departure, they remained the only retailer holding over 10% of the market.

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