FirstGroup names ex-Arriva boss Martin as chairman

FirstGroup has appointed transport veteran David Martin, former boss of rival Arriva, to the role of chairman.

Transport veteran David Martin gets on board at FirstGroup. Picture: contributed
Transport veteran David Martin gets on board at FirstGroup. Picture: contributed

The Aberdeen-headquartered transport giant, which is looking to move on from its spat with activist investor Coast Capital, appointed Martin with immediate effect.

He replaces Wolfhart Hauser who departed as chairman at the company's annual general meeting earlier this year following calls by Coast for him, the chief executive and four other board members to be voted off the board.

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Martin served as chief executive of Arriva for ten years, heading up bus, coach and rail operations across 14 countries and revenues of more than €6 billion (£5.5bn).

He was appointed to the board in 1998 with specific responsibility for international development, before becoming CEO in 2006. His tenure included the buy-out by Deutsche Bahn in 2010, which Martin oversaw before stepping down in 2016. He remained on the Arriva board to advise on a range of issues until May 2017.

Martin is currently senior independent director at Biffa and served as interim chairman of the waste management group for six months.

FirstGroup yesterday announced that, along with Italian firm Trenitalia, it was set to take over the running of the West Coast mainline train route, connecting London Euston to Glasgow Central, from December.

The group - which runs Great Western Railway, South Western Railway and TransPennine Express - is in the midst of a revamp, saying earlier this year it would put its US Greyhound bus business up for sale and look at potentially selling its UK bus division too.

This came after intense pressure from Coast, which holds a 9.8 per cent stake and had been pressing for a break-up of the group.

Martin said: "I am pleased to be joining FirstGroup at a key point in its development. Undoubtedly there are challenges which we must overcome, but I am confident in the opportunity that exists to unlock the considerable value within the group.

"By ensuring the timely delivery of the most effective and appropriate means of value creation, I look forward to playing a pivotal role in achieving a successful outcome in the interests of all stakeholders.”

David Robbie, who had been serving as interim chairman and is a senior independent non-executive director, added: "David is a strong leader with significant experience in business turnaround and performance improvement within the sector and more broadly. He has extensive knowledge of international transport contract businesses and in delivering strategic transactions, including disposals. His expertise and focus will be invaluable in driving forward the plans to rationalise the group’s portfolio and create value for shareholders."