Michael Page head steps down

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The Independent Online

Terry Benson, one of the City's top headhunters, is to step down as chief executive of Michael Page. He has led the country's second-biggest recruitment consultancy for 12 years, during which time he built the London-based firm into a global player.

Mr Benson is thought to have been suffering from ill health, and will leave the top job at the annual meeting in May. He will walk away from the company at the end of the year. Mr Benson was paid more than £1.1m last year and retires with shares and options worth more than £12m.

He will be replaced by Stephen Ingham, who was promoted just this year to managing director of UK operations.

David O' Brien, the sector analyst at Altium Securities, said: "We fell it unlikely that the MP machine will fall apart in Terry's absence as succession plans have been in place for some time, and it is very clearly not a one-man band."

News of Mr Benson's departure caught the City on the hop and refuelled persistent speculation that predators may be circling his firm. The shares - 1.75p better at 270.75p - were chased to an all-time high of 291p this month on rumours that Switzerland's Adecco, the world's biggest employment group, was mulling a bid.

Michael Page operates in 18 countries and has 2,800 workers in about 115 offices - 26 of which are in the UK. When Mr Benson was appointed in 1993, Michael Page had 26 offices in five countries. Turnover then was £49m. This year it is expected to hit £520m.

Trading has been as expected during October and November, the company said yesterday. The recovery continues in Europe and the UK, while business is booming in the Far East. Operating profits in the first half of this year were 78 per cent better at £30.6m.