DEBENHAMS' chief executive Sergio Bucher has held on to his job despite majority sharholder Mike Ashley forcing him off the board of the troubled retailer.

Ashley's Sports Direct and and Dubai-based Milestone Resources, which collectively hold about 37 per cent of Debenhams shares, voted against Mr Bucher's re-election to the board at the retailer's annual meeting this afternoon. Sports Direct is the biggest shareholder in Debenhams with just under 30% of its shares.

The two major shareholders voted against the re-election of both Mr Bucher and Sir Ian Cheshire at the AGM, which came on the day Debenhams reported grim festive sales and that it had held talks with lenders over refinancing its debt pile.

The AGM saw only 44.15 per cent of the voted shares go in favour of Mr Bucher’s re-election to the board. But the company said the board and Mr Bucher agreed that he should continue as chief executive, reporting to the board.

However, Sir Ian has stepped down following the meeting with immediate effect.

Debenhams said: “The board is mindful of its responsibilities to all shareholders and has full confidence in Sergio and in the management's plan to reshape the business.  As a result, the board and Sergio have agreed that he should continue as CEO of Debenhams plc, reporting to the board. The board believes that it is in the best interests of Debenhams plc that the executive team remains fully focused on delivery of the plan.”

Investors have been cheering a strong festive performance by Mitchells & Butlers, the pub giant whose outlets include Glasgow’s famous Horseshoe bar.

Shares in M&Bs closed up nearly eight per cent at 289.4p, making it the fourth-highest riser on the FTSE 100, after like-for-like sales rose by 12.3% over the busiest two weeks of the festive season, with trade up 6.9% over the seven weeks overall to January 5.

Chief executive Phil Urban said the firm was delighted by the performance, but sounded a note of caution over pub-goers reining in spending in January and Brexit uncertainty.

He said: “We now enter our toughest quarter and, given the success of the festive trading period, we would expect trade to be quiet at least until people get paid again.

“The ongoing uncertainty around Brexit will continue so we remain cautious about the outlook until the political and macroeconomic landscape becomes clearer.”

Embattled cake chain Patisserie Valerie has said it is "determined" to put right its past mistakes after being questioned by MPs over supplier payments.

In a letter to the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee, Patisserie Valerie's interim finance chief Nick Perrin said new bosses at the firm were wading through a "large backlog" of unpaid invoices.

He said they were "gradually" progressing in making overdue payments, but admitted there was still "much to do".
It comes after the firm came close to collapse in October following the discovery of a black hole in its accounts, when it was forced to raise emergency funds from chairman Luke Johnson to stay afloat.