John Barton, the chair of fashion group Ted Baker and a veteran of the City, has died at the age of 77, the company said on Monday.
Barton had a long career at the head of FTSE companies, serving as chair of low-cost airline easyJet for almost nine years and of Next for more than a decade.
Helena Feltham, Ted Baker’s senior independent director, will assume the role of interim chair with immediate effect. She said Barton “combined a generosity of spirit with insight, humility and humour and we will all miss him”.
Chief executive Rachel Osborne said: “John was a source of great wisdom for me and for so many of us at Ted Baker and we will hugely miss his support and guidance.”
Barton took over as chair of Ted Baker in July 2020, in the aftermath of allegations of inappropriate conduct, including “forced hugging”, against founder Ray Kelvin. Kelvin, who opened the first Ted Baker store in Glasgow in 1988, has denied the allegations.
During Barton’s time as chair of Next from 2006 to 2017, the company doubled its profits, and reacted to the decline of high street shopping by shifting focus to retail parks and online sales.
“John was a wonderful, wise and deeply perceptive man who’s calm good sense was rarely too far ahead of his wry sense of humour,” said Lord Simon Wolfson, Next chief executive.
“Hard working and never afraid to speak his mind, John’s moral courage, humility and resilience served Next well in both the best and worst of times.”
Johan Lundgren, chief executive of easyJet, described Barton as “a man of huge integrity who was very much liked and respected”.
Barton was born in Lahore, Pakistan, in 1944 and educated at Gordonstoun School in Scotland. He was a chartered accountant and completed an MBA at Strathclyde university.
Additional reporting by Jonathan Eley