Love him or loathe him, one thing you certainly couldn't say about Mike Ashley is that he's timid or indecisive, and this certainly holds true in his decision to dismiss all the former directors and senior management of House of Fraser.
One of the questions I get asked a lot by businesses as an employment lawyer is whether that business is 'allowed' to take a certain step with regard to an employee. The better question is perhaps what the risk of taking such a step would be against the risk of doing nothing or taking a much more cautious approach.
I'm not in a position to judge whether the senior individuals that Mike Ashley has terminated were any good, however it can't be denied that the business had ended up in an untenable position under their leadership. Could Mike Ashley have given them a chance to turn things around by imposing some very clear and objective metrics and going through performance management processes with them etc.? Of course he could, and in doing so, this would help to minimise the potential for individuals to bring successful legal claims arguing their dismissals were somehow unfair if they failed to hit those objectives despite being given every possible chance to succeed. You could also argue that going down such a path would have maintained a degree of continuity in the business (although if the continuity being maintained was a culture of poor decisions and underperformance then that's perhaps not a great benefit).
The risk of not taking decisive action however (or by making minor tweaks) was clearly that the business continued on a downward trajectory. Taking decisive action which rocks the boat might very well create a risk of legal claims from those dismissed staff around the fairness of their treatment, however those claims only have a certain financial value, and if taking such bold action shakes things up sufficiently and puts the business on the right path towards recovery then the risk of unfair claims etc. is clearly outweighed by the overall benefits to the business and in the message that taking such swift and decisive action sends to all of the remaining staff.
In all then, it's not necessarily a question as to whether the business is allowed to do something or whether the action they take exposes the business to the risk of legal claims - it's whether the risk of those claims (and the potential value of them) is outweighed by the wider benefits to the business that taking the action would give rise to.
Whether the management and leadership changes at House of Fraser will have the desired effect, only time will tell. In the on-going challenging trading environment of the high street however, a decisive and ruthless streak on the part of business owners is likely to be essential to survival.
Mike Ashley's firm has sacked the senior management at House of Fraser just weeks after it bought the chain.