Mike Ashley pushes chair and chief executive from Debenhams board

Debenhams To Close Stores In A Bid To Save The Brand

He said in a statement: "It has been a great privilege to get to know my Debenhams colleagues over the past three years".

Once the UK's biggest department store chain, Debenhams has reported a string of profit warnings as it failed to keep pace with consumers moving online and to cheaper outlets, hammering its shares and wiping 80 percent off its market value.

Chairman Sir Ian Cheshire was also voted off the board and will step down.

The figures for the autumn period make even more worrying reading - with a 5.7 per cent fall in like-for-like sales in the 18 weeks to 5th January.

Debenhams is now on a desperate quest to drive down costs, and central to this is a plan to extend previously announced store closures from 10 to a possible 50 sites over the next three to five years.

Two major shareholders voted against the reappointments: Ashley, the CEO of Sports Direct International Plc, who holds a roughly 29 percent stake; and Landmark Group Inc., a retail and hospitality company based in Dubai, which owns 7 percent.

However, Sir Ian had "concluded it is no longer possible for him to remain chairman of Debenhams", it said.

A total of 56% of shares voted were against the re-election of both directors. Sergio received 44.15% votes in favour of his re-election.

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In August a year ago, he rescued House of Fraser after the department store group collapsed into administration.

The board said it is "mindful of its responsibilities to all shareholders" and has full confidence in Bucher and in the management's plan to reshape the business. However, Bucher is to continue in his position, reporting to the board.

"I recognise that individual shareholders have wished to register their dissatisfaction".

The dramatic events came after weeks of pressure for change at Debenhams from Ashley as the debt-laden store chain struggles to turn around a slump in sales and profits.

The department store group, which is pushing ahead with a major restructuring programme, saw like-for-like sales fall 3.4 per cent in the six weeks to 5 January, weighed down by its core United Kingdom market where sales were 3.6 per cent lower.

Senior Independent Director Terry Duddy will become interim director and replace Sir Cheshire.

Also in December, Debenhams declined the offer of a 40 million pound interest-free loan from Ashley, saying conditions attached to it could affect the interests of other stakeholders.

Earlier Thursday, Debenhams announced it is in talks with lenders over its financing amid weak store footfall over the Christmas period.

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