Metcalfe takes on Queens Moat job: Lenders welcome former RHM man as chairman

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The Independent Online
QUEENS MOAT HOUSES, the hotels group teetering on the brink of collapse under pounds 1bn of debt, has appointed Stanley Metcalfe as its new chairman.

Mr Metcalfe, who led the baker Ranks Hovis McDougall into the arms of Tomkins last autumn, takes over from John Bairstow, QMH's founder.

The appointment comes as QMH frantically tries to agree a financial reconstruction with its syndicate of 60 bankers.

A spokeswoman for Barclays - which, with National Westminster, is leading the consortium of lenders - said: 'We are very happy to see the management issues being addressed. We welcome and support this appointment.'

In the first week of July Mr Bairstow said he and 10 other directors had resigned from the board. They took responsibility for a sharp reversal in QMH's fortunes.

On 31 March trading in QMH shares was suspended at 47p when the company said it was reviewing its financial position. The suspension surprised analysts, who had thought the group was trading comfortably, despite the debt.

At the time Mr Bairstow announced his decision to step down Andrew Coppel, a company doctor, was made chief executive. The appointments of Mr Metcalfe and Mr Coppel were made to appease angry lenders.

QMH has more than 200 hotels with more than 22,000 rooms. As part of the financial reconstruction the company is expected to write down the value of its hotels.

Indications yesterday were that the write-downs would be in excess of pounds 500m.

Mr Metcalfe will formally take over after QMH's annual shareholder meeting, which is scheduled for next Thursday. Mr Coppel will cover the chairman's responsibilities in the interim. Mr Metcalfe will be a non-executive chairman, but has promised to spend about three days a week on QMH business.

A spokesman for the company said yesterday: 'Mr Metcalfe is there to try and get to the bottom of the company's troubles. He is there to try and restore some value into the business. The restoration of the company's share quotation has got to be a priority.'

He added: 'Mr Metcalfe has a length of experience and is known to be a strong leader who will be able to co-ordinate negotiations with the bankers. He has been chosen because the banks can depend on his integrity.'

The banking consortium agreed a three-month standstill on interest payments and principal repayments at the end of May. Mr Metcalfe will take the chair just as this agreement runs out.

The spokesman also said that neither Mr Bairstow nor any of the other erstwhile directors would receive compensation for loss of office.

(Photograph omitted)