Mr MacLaurin, who joined the Whitbread board two weeks ago, is an energetic 60-year old, seven years younger than the brewer's chairman Sir Michael Angus, the former Unilever chief.
Mr MacLaurin has plenty of experience of developing consumer brands and at one time was also on the board of Guinness. He quit the NatWest board earlier this year when Tesco struck a deal on supermarket banking with Royal Bank of Scotland.
According to one analyst who reckoned Mr Angus might step down in the next year or two, Mr MacLaurin is highly regarded for his success in overtaking Sainsbury as the largest UK supermarket group. He is currently helping reorganise cricket as chairman of the England and Wales Cricket Board.
A spokeswoman for Whitbread said: "We don't comment on speculation."
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