Richard Baker unveiled as chairman of Whitbread

Premier Inn and Costa Coffee owner Whitbread yesterday named former Boots boss Richard Baker as its new chairman.

Richard Baker has a strong grounding in company ethos. Picture: VisMedia

Baker, who has been an independent non-executive 
director on Whitbread’s board since September 2009, will replace Anthony Habgood, who announced in January that he would be stepping down after nine years in the role.

Baker was chief executive of Boots from 2003 to 2007, during which time the firm merged with Alliance UniChem and later went private. He is currently chairman of Virgin Active Group and DFS Furniture. He will start his new role on 1 September.

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Sir Ian Cheshire, Whitbread’s senior independent director who led the search for a chair, said: “We were lucky enough to have a very strong field of potential candidates. But at the end, it was clear to us that Richard was the best choice to take on the role of chairman.

“He has a very strong record in both managing and chairing consumer businesses, a deep understanding of Whitbread’s operations through his role as a non-executive and a strong empathy with our ethos, culture and commitment to serving our customers.”

Whitbread has been expanding its Costa and Premier Inn businesses aggressively in recent years, with the coffee chain opening 177 outlets in the last financial year.

Premier Inn is in the process of growing the number of UK hotel rooms in its estate from 55,000 to 75,000. It recently signed a lease on an office block in the centre of Edinburgh, which is being transformed into a 127-room hotel under a £17 million plan. The chain has also been expanding in Glasgow ahead of the city hosting the Commonwealth Games this summer.

Baker said he looked forward to “continuing to deliver on the company’s strategy for growth”.

He continued: “Throughout my time on the board, I have admired the strength of the company’s businesses and brands. I strongly endorse the common values shared throughout the group and its consistent focus on putting the customer first.”