The business on...Ian Dyson, Chief executive, Punch Taverns

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The Independent Online

The new head barman?

Mr Dyson is indeed new to the post, having replaced Giles Thorley, the pubs group's colourful ex-boss, only three months ago.

Has he learned to pull a decent pint yet?

He's not actually working behind the bar, you know. But, if you're interested, the company's fortunes have improved since his arrival. Yesterday, it said sales in its pubs were up 2.2 per cent, while food outlets such as Chef & Brewer are doing even better.

So no last orders just yet then?

Well, Punch's enormous debts – £3bn and counting – did almost sink the company last year. Mr Dyson has begun a review of its options for the future; one is giving its tenanted estate – pubs it owns but leases to landlords – to its lenders. Debt reduced, it could then focus on the 800 pubs Punch manages directly.

It all sounds very tough. Why ever did he take the job?

Well, he relishes a challenge. Also, people suspect he was just a tiny bit cheesed off at his old employer, Marks & Spencer. Having served as its finance director for five years, and been given several crucial strategic projects to manage, Mr Dyson was passed over for the chief executive's job this year when it came up. He quit two days after M&S announced it was hiring Marc Bolland instead.

Still, no doubt the money is compensation for the let-down?

Yes and no. Punch made much of the fact it was hiring Mr Dyson on less pay than he had been earning at the retailer. Still, it emerged this week that he has also been given a "golden hello" package of shares which could be worth three times his £675,000 annual salary when he is allowed to cash them in three years' time. Critics don't like the award, though it isperformance related.

The drinks are on him then?

Maybe, but don't expect a double. Mr Dyson is an accountant by trade, a former Arthur Andersen partner who first moved into business at Forte. All his previous jobs, including stints at Hilton and Rank, have been in finance. He watches the pennies.