Avis Europe shops at John Lewis for new chief

The car rental company Avis Europe yesterday announced it had hired Murray Hennessy, who is currently commercial director of the retailer John Lewis, to be its new chief executive.

The 42-year-old, who has an MBA from Harvard Business School and who started his career at the management consulting firm Bain and Co, is expected to take up the post during March.

His appointment ends Avis Europe's three-month search for a new chief executive and comes days after the company warned it expected markets would remain tough next year, sending its shares into freefall.

Previous boss Mark McCafferty, who had been in the job for five years, announced he was leaving in September to look at opportunities in the private equity market.

The company would not comment yesterday on what Mr Hennessy would be paid. Mr McCafferty was paid a £365,541 salary last year. Mr Hennessy joined John Lewis in 2001 after the retailer bought buy.com, where he was chief executive, to develop John Lewis Direct. Before that, he had worked for Tricon Global Restaurants as general manager for Europe, where he looked after the company-owned, franchise and joint venture operations of Pizza Hut and KFC across 28 countries.

Sir Bob Reid, the chairman, said Mr Hennessy brought "a wealth of international top management experience in areas that have particular relevance to our company". Those, he said, included management of multi-site consumer facing international businesses, franchise management, internet sales and strategic sourcing.

Avis Europe said Alun Cathcart, who was chief executive before Mr McCafferty, would continue in his role of interim chief executive until Mr Hennessy joined the company.

Avis Europe warned last week that it was now assuming "no significant recovery in demand and therefore pricing in Europe" and predicted a "broadly flat" operating performance next year.

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