A keen taste for fluid expansion

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Rentokil's 15-year record of increasing earnings by more than 20 per cent is largely thanks to its chief executive, Clive Thompson, who took over in 1982, writes John Willcock.

Joining at the age of 39 from Jeyes, the household fluids company, after spells at Shell and Boots, Mr Thompson launched a strategy of expansion by organic growth and a remorseless series of more than 100 acquisitions.

In the course of this expansion under Mr Thompson the company has branched out from rat-catching into sophisticated pest control, medical and health- care services, hygiene, water and ventilation, office cleaning, and even the upkeep of tropical plants. It now trades in more than 40 countries. Mr Thompson rode the global 1980s boom in service industries for all it was worth, and despite scepticism from the City has built Rentokil into a fund manager's dream.

Mr Thompson, 52, was educated at Clifton College, Bristol, sent there by his father who was himself a chairman of Imperial Smelting, a subsidiary of RTZ. After doing well in sciences he went to Birmingham University.

His first job after graduation was with Shell, where he wanted to concentrate on marketing. He moved to Boots after three years where he marketed drugs in Africa. Then in 1970 he left to join Jeyes, the disinfectant company, where he considered bidding for Rentokil. His present employer beat him to it by headhunting him.

He has the usual clutch of non-executive directorships - BAT, Sainsbury and Farepak, and is a member of the Cadbury II committee on corporate governance. Mr Thompson has also frequently figured in lists of "Britian's most admired managers".