Chairman of Mosaic ousted by Hutchings

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GREG HUTCHINGS, chief executive of the conglomerate Tomkins, has ousted Brian Disbury from his position as chairman of Mosaic Investments, the company best known for its merchandising of characters such as Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles and the Thunderbirds.

Mr Hutchings has been a non-executive director and substantial shareholder of Mosaic since 1987, when it was called Press Tools. Mr Disbury, an accountant, joined the company shortly afterwards to lead its rapid growth through numerous acquisitions. Mr Disbury's previous work as an accountant had included researching prospective acquisitions.

Mosaic's progress has faltered over the past 18 months, and the company yesterday reported a 44 per cent fall in annual pre-tax profits to pounds 4.2m, a 50 per cent drop in earnings per share, and pounds 1.8m of extraordinary closure and disposal costs.

Mosaic's board 'relieved' Mr Disbury of his responsibilities on Friday.

Mr Hutchings has temporarily taken over as chairman, pending the appointment of 'a permanent replacement of the appropriate high calibre'. Compensation for Mr Disbury has not yet been settled.

Mr Hutchings said he was fully committed to the much larger Tomkins, and was unable to spend much time on Mosaic. However, he had decided 'we ought to have change at the top'.

He said Mr Disbury 'has not managed to get the performance out of the company that he should have done. I was hoping that it was going to be another Tomkins. That has not happened.'

Leon Angrave, Mosaic's managing director, said the company's future acquisition activity would be much less frenetic and growth would be more organic.

Mosaic last week completed the pounds 10.4m sale of most of its engineering and automotive businesses, its largest and most profitable division. The businesses sold made operating profits of pounds 2.3m out of a divisional total of pounds 2.7m in the year to 30 April.

The group's main problems came in marketing services, where profits fell from pounds 3.1m to pounds 341,000. Mosaic incurred about pounds 500,000 of losses at Hedges Wright, a photographic, video and conference management firm, which Mosaic bought for pounds 1.3m 18 months ago. Mosaic has recovered nearly pounds 500,000 under warranty claims and is considering suing the investigating accountants.

Profits from character merchandising suffered because of reduced enthusiasm for Mutant Hero Turtles, but Mr Angrave said the effect of the recession on consumer spending was a more important factor.

Mosaic is paying a final dividend of 5.5p to maintain the total at 9.25p a share. Although this payment appears to be uncovered by profits, Mr Angrave said the extraordinary cost was in fact cash positive, making it unnecessary for Mosaic to dig into reserves.