Heir apparent leaves Lucas as Gill stays on

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LUCAS Industries confirmed yesterday that it is to lose the man tipped as its next chief executive. Tony Edwards, group managing director, is to leave the company and is believed to be joining TI Group.

Mr Edwards told Lucas's chairman on Thursday that he wished to leave the company, but he has yet to resign from the board. The company denied newspaper reports that Mr Edwards had in fact resigned two weeks ago after a boardroom row.

The automotive components and aerospace group published its annual results a fortnight ago, and an announcement that Mr Edwards would take over from the chairman, Sir Anthony Gill, as chief executive was expected.

But at the results presentation, Sir Anthony said he would stay 'for at least a year', and Mr Edwards appeared subdued.

It is understood that he was disappointed that the board had decided not to appoint him chief executive, asking Sir Anthony to stay on to oversee the restructuring announced with the results.

Mr Edwards had just completed a six-month strategic review of Lucas's businesses in advance of the restructuring. But it is understood that the shape of the restucturing may not have been entirely in line with his recommendations.

Lucas said in a statement yesterday: 'Clearly the board did not wish to appoint Mr Edwards as chief executive and this may be taken to indicate that in their opinion he has proved to be unsuitable for the appointment.'

When Mr Edwards was appointed managing director in February, the board asked Sir Anthony to remain as chairman until the end of 1994, relinquishing his role as chief executive at an earlier date. But Sir Anthony was asked recently by Lucas's board to stay on as chief executive 'for at least a year'.

Mr Edwards was due to return to run the aerospace division. It is understood that he will soon join TI to direct its aerospace side, which has been greatly expanded by the acquisition of Dowty.

The board's decision not to nominate him as Sir Anthony's successor may have been connected with a drastic decline in earnings in Lucas's aerospace division, for which Mr Edwards was responsible. Operating profits in the division collapsed to pounds 19m from pounds 65m.

Mr Edwards' departure is the second by a senior director this year. David Hankinson quit as finance director in March after disagreements over the management of the group.

Lucas has been seen as vulnerable to a takeover bid for some time as its earnings have fallen sharply. Two weeks ago it reported a dive in pre-tax profits from pounds 82.8m to pounds 22.5m.