he former boss of Next, David Jones, has died at the age of 76, the British retailer has confirmed.
Sir David was responsible for turning Next into a powerhouse of the high street, and guided boss Lord (Simon) Wolfson, when the current chief executive was his assistant during the 1990s.
Next said in a statement: “It is with great sadness that Next records the passing of its former chairman and chief executive Sir David Jones CBE over the weekend.
“David will be remembered by many of his colleagues as the man whose courage, good sense, kindness and hard work navigated the company through its most demanding moments in the late 1980s until his retirement in 2006.
“David was a true friend of Next and our thoughts are with his family at this time.”
The veteran retailer, who also had board positions at Morrisons and JJB Sports, had been in poor health in recent years, having been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease at the age of 39 – something he kept secret until 2001.
Sir David joined Next from the Grattan catalogue business in 1986 and was made chief executive just two years later, following the ousting of Next’s founder George Davies.
On the brink of collapse, he turned around its fortunes, making it the third-biggest fashion chain in the UK behind Marks & Spencer and Arcadia’s portfolio of retailers.
In 2002 he took over as chairman, appointing his former assistant Lord Wolfson as his successor – making him the youngest FTSE 100 chief executive at the time.
Lord Wolfson spoke about Sir David at the time of his appointment.
He said: “His blend of common sense, financial prudence and personal warmth has been an inspiration to all of those who have worked for him.
“His achievements have been all the more remarkable, given the ever increasing physical burden of Parkinson’s disease.”
But following his departure from Next in 2006, he then went into battle with rival retailers and, eventually, the courts.
That year he joined Sir Ken Morrison’s supermarket on the board, and attempted to improve corporate governance with the appointments of non-executives, following a disastrous takeover of rival Safeway – much to the chagrin of the boss.
Later, he joined JJB Sports as executive chairman, but this role was to prove costly both personally and professionally for Sir David.
The retailer ended up on trial in 2013 accused of forging a bank statement to disguise the fact that he had borrowed £1.5 million from JJB founder Dave Whelan.
Leeds Crown Court heard at the time that Sir David was heavily in debt, “possibly due to gambling”.
The prosecution case against him also said that he borrowed another £1.5 million from Mike Ashley, the billionaire owner of the Sports Direct chain and Newcastle United Football Club.
However, due to his deteriorating health, the trial was abandoned. His son, Stuart Jones, later stood trial over the alleged forgery but was acquitted in 2015.