National Express chief to retire

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National Express Group announced yesterday that its chief executive, Ray McEnhill, 55, is to retire early for health reasons, writes David Hellier.

Sources close to the company said Mr McEnhill, who has spearheaded the coach operator's recent expansion into airport and bus operations, was advised by his doctor to retire early following heart problems. He had major heart surgery a couple of years ago.

The board was informed of Mr McEnhill's decision a few days ago and is searching for a successor. It will look at external candidates, although Adam Mills, the company's deputy chief executive, is considered by analysts to be the favourite for the job.

Mr McEnhill, whose total remuneration package last year came to pounds 306,000, has agreed to stay on until the board has chosen a successor.

After leading the management buy-in and then the flotation of the group in 1992 he owned nearly 1.7 million of the company's shares, according to the last set of annual accounts. The shares yesterday rose 3p to 387p, still some way below the high for the year of 415p.

In an attempt to steady the market's nerves over the announcement the company said its operating divisions were all performing in line with expectations.

Positive trends highlighted in its interim report had continued in the third quarter.