Lovell chief to retire early

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The Independent Online

Robert Sellier, the chief executive of YJ Lovell, the struggling construction group, is to retire a year earlier than planned. Mr Sellier, 62, who arrived from George Wimpey in 1991, will leave the company next month.

Mr Sellier attracted attention last year, when the company's annual accounts showed that his pay and pensions package cost the company pounds 747,000, almost twice what it paid in dividends to its ordinary shareholders. pounds 455,000 of the package was additional pension contributions and the tax on them.

A statement issued yesterday said Mr Sellier had originally planned to retire in August next year but, with the downsizing of the group - YJ Lovell recently decided to pull out of private housebuilding - the board agreed to Mr Sellier retiring earlier than planned.

Mr Sellier said his early departure was sensible given that the business had been slimmed in recent months and there was now a need to cut overheads. "I am a fairly substantial overhead," he admitted.

He said that his departure terms were confidential and still had to be ratified by the group. He added that there would be a payment for this year's pension but it would be less than last year's."

Meanwhile, the company said that David Heppell, currently president of the group's US division - and a former colleague of Mr Sellier's at Wimpey - will take over as chief executive instead of group director George Miller, who has decided "for personal reasons" not to take up the job as envisaged earlier this year.

Mr Sellier said Mr Miller, who would remain group director, desperately wanted the job but that his reasons for not now taking it were "very personal" and "very genuine."

YJ Lovell reported a pounds 4.1m profit last year and a half-year profit of nearly pounds 900,00 but trading is believed to have worsened. Shares in YJ Lovell traded on Friday at 13p against a high for the year of 61p, valuing the 200-year-old group at little more than pounds 5m. Last year, the shares touched 173p.

Mr Sellier said that he was pleased to have helped the group to its pounds 70m- plus capital reconstruction but since that time the "markets have run against us." He dismissed suggestions that his early departure had been the result of a boardroom coup.