Celsis sacks chief executive after one year: Finance director describes Tony Martin's performance as 'ineffectual'

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The Independent Online
CELSIS International has sacked its chief executive, Tony Martin, whom it described as ineffectual, only nine months after the biotechnology company obtained a stock market listing.

Mark Clement, the finance director, said Dr Martin's fellow directors had unanimously decided that he had to be dismissed because he was not performing. Mr Clement said: 'He was ineffectual. He was not adding any value to what the business was about.'

Dr Martin leaves Celsis after just over a year, with a shareholding worth more than pounds 1.5m. Dr Martin paid pounds 45,000 for his 3.3 per cent holding in Celsis.

The company is keen to secure alliances with leading pharmaceutical companies to aid the development of its digital system for testing for microbes. Mr Clement said the company needed a high-profile chief executive with the gravitas to open doors at the highest levels within the pharmaceutical industry.

'Dr Martin was not able to do that and was singularly backwards in coming forwards,' he said.

Dr Martin's dismissal shocked his former colleagues at British Bio-technology, where he was highly regarded after building up a profitable diagnostics business. James Noble, finance director at British Bio-tech, said he was 'absolutely astonished'. Dr Martin could not be contacted.

Mr Clement said Celsis did not intend to compensate Dr Martin, who was on a salary of pounds 100,000. He will also lose his 1.1 million share options.

Celsis said its development plans were still on course and it expected to launch its digital system towards the end of this year. The company believes its device can dramatically cut the time needed for microbial testing, and can replace the century- old method that uses agar jelly.

Mr Clement said Celsis was comfortable with its first year's performance, both financially and in terms of product development. Dr Martin's departure reflected an individual weakness.

He said the company was growing rapidly and set itself high standards. It had to penetrate a very conservative market very rapidly.

While seeking to recruit a new chief executive from outside, Celsis will be run by Mr Clement and his fellow executive directors, Peter Grant, Nick Kerton and John McKinley. Chris Evans, founder and a non-executive director, owns 25.6 per cent of the company. Dr Evans is also behind Chiroscience, another recently floated biotech company.

Celsis shares fell 4p to 78p yesterday. It floated at 100p.

The company reported a first- half loss of pounds 560,000 last November on sales of pounds 79,000.

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