The chief executive of Britain’s biggest specialist electrical goods and mobile phone retailer is quitting days before it updates the City on its Christmas trading performance.
Sky News can reveal that Sebastian James, who has run Dixons Carphone since the company was created in 2014, is to leave to run Boots, the high street chemist.
Mr James’s resignation will rock Dixons Carphone, which is scheduled to publish sales figures for the festive period on Tuesday.
His exit is likely to be particularly poorly received because it will come just a fortnight after Humphrey Singer, his finance director, quit to take the same role at Marks & Spencer.
Their dual departures will pose a major headache for Lord Livingston, Dixons Carphone’s chairman, following a sharp fall in half-year profits announced in December.
Sources said that Mr James’s resignation would be formally notified to the London Stock Exchange on Monday, although a statement is likely to be made sooner following an enquiry from Sky News.
A move to run Boots, part of the New York-listed Walgreens Boots Alliance, would see Mr James entering an unfamiliar part of the retail sector.
The health and beauty chain is the UK’s biggest retailer by number of stores, with about 3500 outlets across its main brand, Boots Opticians and Boots Hearingcare operations.
It employs about 57,000 people, and has been part of the global drugs wholesaler and retailer since WBA was established by the giant American company’s takeover of Alliance Boots.
Mr James’s prospective job title at WBA was unclear on Friday, although he is expected to take on responsibilities held by Elizabeth Fagan, the company’s senior vice-president and managing director of Boots.
Given his seniority, Mr James, who was appointed to run Dixons in 2008, is also likely to be handed a wider remit.
His departure from Dixons Carphone is not entirely unexpected given that he has been with the business for a decade.
The poor performance of Dixons Carphone’s share price – down by nearly half over the last year – has left Mr James and senior colleagues nursing worthless share options which could have been worth millions of pounds.
Last summer, several leading investors in the company said they wanted its board to step up succession planning in the wake of a profit warning which also left them venting anger towards Mr Singer.
When they merged in 2014, Dixons Retail and Carphone Warehouse were worth a combined £3.8bn.
At the close of trading on Friday, however, the business was worth £2.2bn, with investors anxiously awaiting details of the Christmas trading period.
Dixons Carphone has a 42,000-strong workforce in nine countries, including Greece and Norway.
A close friend of David Cameron, the former Prime Minister, Mr James emerged last year as a contender to run ITV, the commercial broadcaster, but the role eventually went to Carolyn McCall, the then easyJet boss.
December’s fall in profits at Dixons Carphone was attributed to the mobile phone operations and changing customer behaviour, with consumers inclined to hold onto their existing handsets for longer, Mr James said.
It currently trades from roughly 1000 shops but has raised the prospect of a significant shrinking of its estate over time.
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It was unclear on Friday whether Dixons Carphone has already lined up Mr James’s successor.
A WBA spokesman declined to comment on Friday, while Dixons Carphone could not be reached for comment.