Lucas lures Simpson as chief executive

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GEORGE SIMPSON yesterday announced plans to join Lucas Industries as chief executive, ending a tug-of-war with British Aerospace over one of Britain's most highly rated executives.

Lucas sources said that Mr Simpson's annual pay would be more than pounds 350,000 plus share options and other perks, but denied reports that his earnings would top pounds 1m a year.

Mr Simpson, 51, deputy chief executive of British Aerospace and chairman of its Rover Group car division, had been linked with the Lucas job for months, and his appointment comes just as the troubled automotive and aerospace group is turning the corner.

The Scots-born accountant will not, however, be moving into the job until next May - a delay that surprised the City and may have contributed to Lucas's shares slipping 2p to 177p. 'He has to meet his obligations at BAe. That's only natural,' Lucas said.

Sir Anthony Gill, Lucas's chairman and chief executive, will become non-executive chairman, and is expected eventually to make way for Richard Giordano, a non-executive director.

Lucas is making a rigorous assault on costs and Robert Speed, analyst at Henderson Crosthwaite, said Mr Simpson was unlikely to change that strategy. 'The company is doing everything that is necessary to re-establish itself. Mr Simpson has made the right decision. He joins at a very good time.'

Last year Lucas made pre-tax profits of pounds 22.5m, which Mr Speed forecasts will rise to pounds 217m in 1995-96.

BAe is left with an important post to fill at Rover, which some believed was being lined up for flotation. 'A reason Mr Simpson would have stayed at BAe is so he could lead the stock market launch. Now he is going, suggestions of an imminent float are receding,' an analyst said.

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