Brent Walker break-up likely as Ward resigns

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The Independent Online
NICHOLAS WARD, managing director of Brent Walker, has resigned in a move that could hasten a break- up of the troubled leisure group, writes Jason Nisse.

His departure comes as the group's new chairman, Sir Keith Bright, is putting the finishing touches to a new corporate plan for the company.

Observers expect that the plan may include the sale or flotation of one of the group's two main subsidiaries, the betting shop chain William Hill or the pub-owning company Pubmaster.

It is thought that Pubmaster, which owns or leases more than 2,000 pubs across the country, is more likely to be floated to inject fresh capital into the rapidly growing operation.

Mr Ward's departure leaves a vacuum at the top. The chief executive, Ken Scobie, resigned in January and there is just one executive director, John Leach, finance director, left at the group's London headquarters.

Mr Ward, who was in charge of the disposal programme, has been under pressure from bankers who last year restructured pounds 1.4bn of loans to the group. A senior banker said: 'The management team put up a corporate plan which they could not achieve and they have to pay the price.'

Mr Ward, former senior executive at Guinness and chief executive of the chemists Macarthy, joined Brent Walker two years ago. His compensation for loss of office could run to pounds 1m, which is in line with the payment Mr Scobie is believed to have received.