Hutchings feels heat over Archer

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INSTITUTIONAL shareholders in Tomkins have lost confidence in chairman Greg Hutchings as a result of the slow pace of his shake-up of the conglomerate and his involvement in Lord Archer's farcical campaign to be Mayor of London.

Mr Hutchings, who has run the group for more than 15 years, is expected to come under pressure to step down from the helm. He received pounds 1.5m in pay and made pounds 1.7m by exercising options last year, despite persistent poor performance and slow progress in demerging the bread and cakes maker RHM.

After last week's revelations about Lord Archer, fund managers expressed dismay at Mr Hutchings' "serious error of judgement". Mr Hutchings, who did not return calls on the matter, was treasurer to Lord Archer's campaign think-tank, the Greater London Forum.

One leading fund manager said: "We are fed up with waiting for the improvements we are continually promised and strongly feel Mr Hutchings should be concentrating on sorting out his business rather than getting involved with the likes of Lord Archer."

Another added: "We see Mr Hutchings as an impediment to the business. Not only is his judgement out but he is completely out of touch."

Fund managers also claim that Mr Hutchings, who is rumoured to have fallen out with his long-term finance director, Ian Duncan, is "consistently ignoring the signals from shareholders".

"He pays himself very well but fails to realise the value in the business," said one. "We feel that would happen a lot more readily if he were no longer there. What's happened to the RHM merger we were hearing so much about?

"Hutchings is now an Eighties man, a dinosaur, and has to go. He continually asks people why they don't buy his shares; now he has the answer."

Worryingly for Mr Hutchings, fund manager Phillips & Drew has been buying shares in Tomkins. It has a reputation for active share holding in underperforming businesses.