Ian Dyson’s a brave man: he’s just resigned as finance and operations director at Marks & Spencer to take on the chief exec role at Punch Taverns, the heavily indebted pub group – despite the fact they’re apparently paying him less than he was on at M&S. The timing’s rather inconvenient for new M&S boss Marc Bolland, who only started on Tuesday – but since Dyson was supposedly up for his job at one point, it does save some awkwardness. Dyson clearly felt a CEO job was too good to turn down – even if his new employer is in a mess, and one of its biggest shareholders seems distinctly unhappy about his appointment...
It’s not exactly unusual for spurned CEO candidates to leave when they get passed over for the top job, so it’s not entirely surprising that Dyson is off: the appointment of Bolland (a surprising one, since Sir Stuart Rose had previously suggested a preference for an internal candidate) blocks any chance he might have had of advancement at M&S any time soon. Nonetheless, although Bolland might not be entirely unhappy about this, replacing him will undoubtedly be a hassle (not to mention a boon for M&S’s over-worked headhunters). Still, Dyson technically has a six-month notice period, so Bolland does have a little bit of breathing space.
As for Dyson, he clearly thought a CEO job at a public company was too good an opportunity to pass up: he knows the leisure industry well, having previously worked for Hilton and Forte, and Punch is still Britain’s biggest pub group. But if he wanted an easy life, he’s going to the wrong place. Despite former CEO Giles Thorley’s attempts to salvage the business (he staved off collapse by flogging a load of pubs and completing a £350m rights issue, cutting its debts by more than a quarter) Punch is still in hock for more than £3bn.
He’ll also have to win over some recalcitrant shareholders: Schroders, which has a 7% stake in Punch, has been lobbying for an executive chairman, with the group’s two divisional heads left in operational control of their respective businesses; one of its fund managers has been muttering darkly in the Times today about shareholders 'having their say' at the next AGM. Then there’s the ongoing challenges posed by (amongst other things) increasingly punitive taxation, the competitive threat of supermarkets, and the likely fall in consumer spending.
All this, and Dyson’s apparently agreed to take a pay cut (though it should reduce his bar bills). Like we said, brave man...
In today's bulletin:
EU warns of UK Greek tragedy as Brits go to the polls
Morrisons hammered despite 6% sales growth
Dyson quits M&S to take (very) hot seat at Punch
John Vincent: Empty companies
Small business owners among the great ignored?