Revolving door has M&B looking like a real soap opera

ANALYSTS have slammed the "soap opera" at the helm of Mitchells & Butlers after the pub group parted ways with its third chairman in 18 months.

The group, which owns Toby Carvery and All Bar One, said Simon Burke would step down as non-executive chairman, while another non-executive Michael Balfour is also leaving. Bob Ivell, a former managing director of Scottish & Newcastle's (S&N) retail division, has been appointed as an interim non-executive chairman while Ron Robson, a representative of major shareholder Piedmont, becomes deputy chairman.

Burke had replaced John Lovering earlier this year, who left weeks before the firm's chief executive Adam Fowle parted ways with the company's board in March. The FTSE-250 M&B has not yet found a replacement chief executive although non-executive director, Jeremy Blood -another former S&N managing director - is acting in the role on an interim basis.

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Fowle was the last director remaining on the board from before the acquisition of a stake in the business by billionaire Joe Lewis through his vehicle Piedmont, and Irish racehorse tycoons, John Magnier and JP McManus, who own investor Elpida. Piedmont's ownership of the firm has been characterised by boardroom turmoil after Lewis forced through a coup, ditching most directors at an annual meeting last year.

Nigel Parson, an analyst with Evolution, said the latest resignation would spark a "another blizzard of speculation".

He said: "The revolving doors in M&B's boardroom will continue to spook investors who will continue to worry about the undue influence of major shareholders Piedmont and Elpida. The soap opera that is Mitchells & Butlers continues to run."

Although he described Ivell as a "real industry pro", Parson cast doubt on how long he could "cope with the aggravation that goes with the job".

Shares closed down 10.6p at 295p.

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