Legal Business Blogs

Succession planning: Marks & Spencer’s Chase to take over as longstanding GC Ivens retires

One of the legal industry’s longest-standing leaders and regular GC Powerlist member Robert Ivens has retired from his role at Marks & Spencer, after first joining in 1985 and becoming head of legal in 1989.

In his role Ivens (pictured) was responsible for the day-to-day provision of legal advice to the Marks & Spencer Group worldwide and headed up a team of 30, focusing on employment, commercial contracts, marketing, real estate, intellectual property, consumer protection and regulatory law. External advisers include King & Wood Mallesons, Lewis Silkin, Osborne Clarke and Slaughter and May.

Ivens is replaced by Verity Chase who joined M&S in 2010. Described as the number two in the in-house team, Chase was nominated for the Legal Business Rising Star In-House Counsel of the Year Award and was instrumental in providing the legal framework to assist Marks & Spencer with its international expansion plans. Prior to joining Marks & Spencer Chase was a legal director at Wragge & Co.

The iconic retailer hit headlines in 2004 when Ivens helped fight off a £9.1bn bid to acquire it by multi-billionaire businessman Philip Green who owns some of the biggest retail brands on the high street.

Speaking to Legal Business for the 2016 GC Powerlist, Ivens said the department store’s international push had helped to embed the legal team’s knowledge within the organisation.

‘We’ve been going into all of these places and looking at the contractual side, the regulatory side, and how to provide services to a store. Even something as basic as sorting contracts for the supply of logistics can be a challenge in an unfamiliar location. The upshot is we’ve got some really good systems in place to do all of this if we go into a new market. That’s a great example of how having a stable legal department can become a cost saver over time and add value to a business.’

Group company secretary Amanda Mellor said: ‘We wish Robert all the best. He has served M&S diligently for over 30 years and provided critical support to the business and the board. I am extremely grateful to him for his team planning to ensure a smooth succession and am delighted to say that Verity Chase will be promoted, taking up the role of head of legal in early September.’

Earlier this month UK-based electronics business Dialight appointed its first general counsel (GC), bringing in Chris Fussell from business process and technology services provider Xchanging.

Other recent in-house appointments include Time Inc’s appointment of Lauren Ezrol Klein as GC. Klein will succeed Lon Jacobs who leaves next month making the move up to the position of top lawyer after 20 years with the magazine. Canadian drugmaker Valeant Pharmaceuticals has also brought in senior vice president and GC at eye care company Alcon Laboratories, Christina Ackermann as its new GC.