Forte makes key changes at the top

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The Independent Online
FORTE, the hotels and catering group, has set in train a series of changes to the structure of its board that is expected to lead to Rocco Forte, the chief executive, moving to the chairmanship and the retirement of the group's founder, Lord Forte of Ripley.

The moves will bring in new executive and non-executive directors from inside and outside the company and will help to deflect the criticism of the company that has followed the collapse of its pounds 500m sale of Gardner Merchant, its contract catering operation, to Compass Group.

Forte has instructed headhunters to find senior executives from the hotel industry to join the group. It in understood these executives are to join the company at just below board level, a move that could lead to the promotion of some senior managers in the hotels side to the board.

A favourite candidate for elevation is Tony Monnickendam, who runs the group's restaurants side.

At the same time there may be some retirements from the board. The favourite to stand down is Denis Hearn, 63, who has been on the board for 20 years and is deputy chief executive. Alan Hearn, his cousin who runs the hotels side, is expected to become deputy chief executive, and will succeed Mr Forte as chairman when Lord Forte, who will be 84 in November, retires.

Lord Forte may take the title of life president, a position currently held by Lord Thorneycroft, the 84-year-old former chairman of the Conservative Party.

The group also wants to recruit new non-executive directors. It has come under fire for the connections its existing non-executives have with the company.

Two non-executives, Donald Durban and Eric Harwell, have been with the company for more than 50 years, and a third, Sir Charles Hardie, since 1970.