Speaking after the group’s annual meeting in Glasgow, the Aggreko boss admitted to “hugely mixed” emotions about his imminent departure. However, his enthusiasm for his new post at Serco is such that he has moved his start date forward by a month to next week.
“It is a very different and very big business that does a lot of important and exciting things,” Soames said of Serco, whose remits span training the armed forces, maintaining nuclear weapons, inspecting schools and running the trains. The company has been without a permanent chief executive since Chris Hyman’s departure in October at the height of the scandal that erupted with accusations that Serco had fraudulently over-charged on contracts to tag criminals. That led to a ban – since lifted – on new government work and fines of more than £68 million.
Aggreko, meanwhile, is in strong shape but could use an injection of new blood after 11 years under his leadership, said Soames.
“I happen to believe one of the most important things for a chief executive to know is when to go,” Soames said. “There is nothing more injurious to a company than to hang around too long.”
Chairman Ken Hanna said the board and headhunter Russell Reynolds were continuing to review both internal and external candidates. “We are working through quickly, but we are not going to rush,” he said.
Potential successors include head of finance Angus Cockburn, who took over as interim chief executive when Soames’ departure was announced at the end of February. “In terms of managing the business, our priorities remain the same,” he said.
All resolutions at yesterday’s meeting were passed by a large majority, including a vote to approve the return of £200 million to shareholders in June. Investors will receive 75p for each ordinary share owned on 27 May.