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Kirkcaldie taps former chief Shewell as acting CEO while hunting Milford replacement

Kirkcaldie & Stains, the upscale Wellington department store, named former managing director Philip Shewell as acting chief executive while it searches for a replacement for John Milford.

Shewell was a director of the company until February last year and ran the business more than a decade ago. He will start on April 8.

Milford resigned in December, after eight years, and ended up this month.

Last month the unprofitable retailer said it would make a decision on a possible capital return to shareholders once a new CEO was appointed and it had received the final payment from the buyer of its Harbour City Centre building.

After paying off $23.5 million in bank debt, the sale has netted $16.8 million to date but chairman Falcon Clouston said the board is still awaiting a final installment of $4.75 million in October.

The board is considering three options to return the business to profitability - a focus on a retail turnaround, which would take three-to-five years and considerable investment, downsizing, or divesting the business altogether, but won't make a decision until after the CEO appointment, Clouston said last month.

The shares last traded at $1.68 and have dropped 22 percent in the past 12 months, while the NZX 50 Index rose 14 percent.