THE founder of Bolton-based online electrical giants AO World has swooped back into to take the helm ­— less than two year after stepping down.

John Roberts who set up the online firm after a bet in a pub, has been reappointed to take the reins after Steve Caunce, aged 50, quit with immediate effect to "step back to a less demanding business role and re-balance his lifestyle".

The move comes after AO World posted an £11.7 million operating loss for the six months to September 30 amid a challenging UK and German market.

But the group enjoyed a record Black Friday, with sales surging 8.2 per cent over the third quarter ended December 31.

Mr Roberts, aged 45, said he "can't wait to get stuck in again as CEO as we move on to the next exciting stage of the AO story".

Mr Roberts founded the group in 2000 and still owns a 23 per cent shareholding has been focusing on innovation and development projects for the past two years, although he has remained on the board.

It was when he was in his mid-twenties Mr Roberts, then an appliance salesman, was having a beer with a friend in Bolton when he made a £1 wager saying he would set up his own kitchen business in Middlebrook.

Just 14 years later, he was a multi-millionaire after was floated on the London stock market.

Mr Roberts said: "Steve has played a vital part in AO’s development and in the last two years has created the foundations for our future success.

"I look forward to continuing to work with him, as I have over the last 13 years.

"AO’s future is incredibly bright given our depth of talent at all levels of the business. I am fully committed to the business and the execution of our focussed strategy and can’t wait to get stuck in again as CEO as we move onto the next exciting stage of the AO story."

Mr Roberts, who led AO World until Mr Caunce was promoted in February 2017. The firm said Mr Caunce had led the group through "two years of intense activity"

Mr Caunce will remain involved in the business on a part-time basis as an adviser to the chief executive and the board.

Mr Caunce said:"It is a privilege to have played a significant part in AO’s success and to have led the Company for the last two years. I have decided to step down at a time when I feel AO is well placed to continue to thrive as a leader in our sector. I look forward to contributing to the AO team as we execute our strategy.

Chairman Geoff Cooper said: "Steve has significantly professionalised and upgraded our business and operating capabilities.

"He has established and strengthened management teams in the UK and continental Europe, who are both getting on with execution of our strategy. As Chairman I have been impressed with his work as CEO, and with the fundamental contribution he has made over 13 years to building AO into the business it is today."

Analysts at Jefferies said Mr Caunce leaves a "well-structured business, with a strengthened senior management team and sound infrastructure".

They added: "Although there are near-term challenges, in the medium term AO's excellent reputation for customer service (among customers at least), should underpin its growth prospects."

FTSE 250-listed AO World, which has its headquarters in Bolton, operates across the UK, Germany and the Netherlands.