HMV Group COO Brian McLaughlin is to retire at the end of 2004. McLaughlin, 54, will remain on the HMV Group board as a non-executive director. The group confirms that he will be replaced as COO; no a

HMV Group COO Brian McLaughlin is to retire at the end of 2004. McLaughlin, 54, will remain on the HMV Group board as a non-executive director. The group confirms that he will be replaced as COO; no announcement was made about his successor.

McLaughlin announced his unexpected move to HMV staff and suppliers at the company's annual conference last night (May 20) in Marbella, Spain.

"I've been at work for 40 years -- 36 of that with HMV -- I owe my wife Sue and my family some real quality time," McLaughlin tells Billboard.biz.

"The board [has] asked me to stay on as a non-executive director and I've agreed. I'm thrilled to do that," McLaughlin adds. "I feel I've still got something to offer the business." McLaughlin says he will remain involved over the next six months with HMV Group strategy, in particular with developing its download business and its store-opening plans.

HMV Europe operates 179 stores in the U.K. and Ireland and is the market-leading music merchant in the United Kingdom.

McLaughlin is the executive most closely identified with the chain's rise to U.K. dominance over the past 15 years. He has spent most of his working life with the retailer, having joined in 1968 as an assistant in its branch in Portsmouth, England. At that time, the chain had nine outlets, all in the United Kingdom. He steadily rose through the ranks, becoming managing director of HMV U.K. in 1987. In December 1996, he was appointed to the same title for HMV Europe.

In January 2001, McLaughlin took the role of group COO. That year, he was honored at the prestigious annual Music Industry Trusts' gala in London. He has also served as chairman of the British Assn. of Record Dealers (BARD) and as a member of the government's Music Industry Forum.

McLaughlin announced his departure at the conference's closing gala dinner.

Earlier, delegates had heard that HMV Europe was on course to open 25 new stores within the current financial year. That would take the chain past the 200-store mark in the United Kingdom. Parent HMV Group is due to announce its annual financial results June 30. The results are expected to show a strong performance by HMV Europe, largely driven by DVD sales. HMV claims to be the U.K.'s DVD market leader.

"Music is still a higher proportion of our business than DVD," HMV Europe product director Steve Gallant tells Billboard.biz. "But we expect that to change this year in line with market predictions."

According to data supplied by the British Phonographic Industry, HMV's share of the album market in the U.K. in 2003 was 20.9%. Its singles share was 19%.

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