Leading shareholders in Dixons Carphone want directors to accelerate a search for its next boss after last week’s shock profit warning wiped nearly a quarter off the company’s stock market value.
Sky News has learnt that a number of top 10 investors in the retailer will press Lord Livingston of Parkhead, Dixons Carphone’s chairman, to speed up succession planning amid growing pressure on Seb James, chief executive.
A search is already said to have been initiated by the board, although a person close to the company said it was simply part of “normal succession planning”.
The demand from some investors is the first sign of genuine disgruntlement with the mobile phone and electrical goods chain’s leadership since the £3.8bn merger of Dixons Retail and Carphone Warehouse in 2014.
Mr James had run Dixons since early 2012, having joined the company in 2008.
Shares in the company have lost more than half their value over the last year, a decline hastened by last week’s alert that this year’s profits would be as much as 30% below City forecasts.
Mr James blamed the downturn in trading on consumers holding on to their existing mobile handset for longer, while the post-Brexit vote fall in the value of sterling had also had an impact by forcing up the cost to British consumers of new devices.
Image: Seb James, who has led Dixons Carphone since 2014, is facing growing pressure
None of the shareholders who want Dixons Carphone to accelerate plans for leadership change are calling for Mr James to be sacked immediately.
However, one City source said on Monday that the unhappy investors believed that Mr James had “taken his eye off the ball” and “lost control of the company” in recent months.
Another said he had “not taken the necessary tough decisions”, without giving further details.
Sky News revealed in July that Mr James was one of the candidates shortlisted to replace Adam Crozier as the chief executive of ITV.
That role went instead to Carolyn McCall, the boss of easyJet.
Some investors in Dixons Carphone believe that Mr James may have become demotivated by the expensive nature of a potentially lucrative bonus scheme which has failed to pay out because of the fall in its share price.
Sources close to Dixons Carphone sprang to Mr James’s defence, arguing that last week’s profit warning was his “first big mistake” as the company’s boss.
One insider said the board “remains supportive of Seb and the team, and will be talking to shareholders over the coming weeks”.
They added that the profitability of Dixons Carphone remained well in excess of the combined profits of the two companies prior to their merger.
The views of Sir Charles Dunstone and David Ross, the Carphone Warehouse co-founders who own close to 20% of Dixons Carphone between them, were unclear on Monday.
The two entrepreneurs no longer have a formal involvement with the business after Sir Charles stepped down as chairman this year to concentrate on his role at TalkTalk.
A spokesman for the retailer, which now has a market value of just £2.1bn, declined to comment.