Bass shares slip after pubs chief resigns

Shares in Bass, Britain's biggest brewer, fell 16p to 538p yesterday after it announced that Philip Bowman, head of Bass Taverns and the man tipped as heir apparent to the chairman and chief executive, Ian Prosser, was leaving.

Mr Bowman is returning to his native Australia for a boardroom position at the retail group Coles Myer. He leaves at the end of April and will be replaced by Tim Clarke, managing director of Holiday Inns in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

There was speculation in the City that Mr Bowman's resignation had been prompted by frustration over his future career prospects in the group, where Mr Prosser still combines both the chairman and chief executive roles. Aside from Anthony Greener at Guinness, he is the only head of a big brewer who has clung to both positions and the company still says it has no plans to split the roles.

Commenting on Mr Bowman's departure Bass said: "Mr Bowman is Australian and has been made a very good offer in his home country." The company seemed unclear, however, on exactly what position Mr Bowman had been offered.

The departure of Mr Bowman is seen as a blow to the group. He was perceived in the City as a rising star being given valuable operational experience at the company's most profitable division.

Now 41, he joined Bass in 1985 as finance director of Bass Leisure, then in 1991 became group finance director, moving to the pubs group last year.

At Bass Taverns, Mr Bowman was responsible for 4,200 pubs and 120 Toby restaurants,which contribute 35 per cent of Bass's £633m operating profits.

The division has underperformed against its rivals but Mr Bowman had impressed industry experts with changes such as the re-organisation of the division's structure and a revaluation of its property interests.

One analyst said: "The numbers had started to improve and he had done a good job convincing the investment community that Bass could start to improve the division's prospects."

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