Keith Miller to quit as Miller Group boss

Keith Miller: Stepping down. Picture: Gareth Easton

Keith Miller: Stepping down. Picture: Gareth Easton

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HOUSEBUILDING tycoon Keith Miller today announced he would be stepping down as chief executive and leaving the company which bears his family name.

Edinburgh-based Miller Group said its boss would leave at the end of March, after more than 20 years at the helm.

It follows an attempt to float off the firm’s mainstay homes business last year, which was pulled in the face of market turbulence.

Miller, whose family relinquished control of the firm in 2012 in a recapitalisation following the financial crisis, will not be replaced as group chief executive.

Instead, the heads of the company’s three divisions will report directly to the board, fuelling speculation that majority owner Blackstone will resurrect its flotation plans as the market for initial public offerings picks up.

Miller, who will be 66 next month, did not wish to discuss the reasons for his departure with The Scotsman.

However, a source close to the businessman said that it seemed like a good time for him to step down, and that although he was leaving Miller Group altogether he was not retiring and may pursue other ventures.

In a short statement released by the company, Miller said: “We have strong management teams in place in Miller Homes, Miller Developments and Miller Mining, each of which is led by its own chief executive.

“I am looking forward to being able to report further impressive performance from Miller Homes and our other businesses when we announce our final results for 2014 in a few weeks’ time.

“The group has experienced tremendous growth over the past three years and the time is right to pass the leadership of our businesses to the respective management teams.”

Miller Group was founded in 1934 by Miller’s father and uncle. Keith Miller joined the family firm in 1975 and has been chief executive since 1994.

The company was plunged into a dispute in 2007, when relatives representing 64 per cent of the share capital wanted to approach buyers for their stakes. Keith Miller was concerned a sale threatened control of the firm.

The dispute was settled in January 2008 and within months many of the rebels sold their shares to Bank of Scotland. Lloyds inherited the bank’s stake when it took over HBOS in 2008.

The firm snapped up a number of smaller rivals in the turmoil that followed the financial crisis, but built up debts of more than £700 million.

The Miller family relinquished control of the business in 2012 as the firm was recapitalised in a deal with its lenders. The family retains a relatively small minority stake.

GSO Capital Partners, a division of private equity firm Blackstone, helped underpin the group by leading a £160m investment that left it with a 56 per cent stake.

Other participants in the refinancing include Royal Bank of Scotland – which will become the next largest shareholder – Lloyds and merchant bank Noble Grossart.

Since then the firm has enjoyed significant growth as the house market recovers, but pulled plans to float Miller Homes, which makes up the bulk of the business, late last year citing “market turbulence”.

The company was expected to be valued at more than £450m, propelling it into the FTSE 250. However, some in the city suggested the IPO was aborted because potential investors disagreed with the valuation.

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