Lost years at Rentokil

After a messy succession, new CEO Doug Flynn must tidy up the sprawling firm.

by Patience Wheatcroft

If Sir Clive Thompson had adopted a slogan to describe his management style, it might have been 'I'll show them who's boss'. So it is ironic that the man who now thinks he can put right the wrongs that came about at Rentokil as a result of Thompson's reign has made a television series under just that label.

In his television shows, however, Sir Gerry Robinson was applying his tactics to small businesses. Thompson was trying to control an international company with more than 1,000 different brands and 93,000 employees. In the end, his technique failed. As the new management has moved to fend off Robinson's putative bid, the litany of criticisms of Thompson's regime has grown. No mention is made of the phenomenal annual growth he delivered, earning him the admiring soubriquet 'Mr Twenty Per Cent'.

But something went badly wrong. Rentokil Initial remains a strong corporate identity with solid brands in competitive markets. The growth record, though, has been obliterated; Thompson and his new chief executive were shown the door. The new CEO, Doug Flynn, admits that it should not take rocket science to fix it, just time and hard work.

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