Blank to step down from GUS after break-up

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The Independent Online

Sir Victor Blank, the chairman designate of Lloyds TSB, promised yesterday to flout corporate governance guidelines by chairing two FTSE 100 companies, only for as long as it takes GUS to cleave itself in two.

The retail conglomerate has pledged to separate its financial services arm Experian from Argos and Homebase, its UK chains, but has yet to announce a timetable. The process is likely to drag on past May, when Sir Victor is due to succeed Maarten van den Bergh as Lloyds TSB's next chairman.

Sir Victor, who steps down from his chairman's role at Trinity Mirror in May, will receive £550,000 annual compensation at the bank, in line with the new super salaries paid to other FTSE 100 chairmen such as Reuters' Niall FitzGerald.

Confirmation that Sir Victor would quit his role at GUS once it has either spun off or sold Experian came as the group announced it was paying up to £100m for a marketing services company to bolster its rapidly growing financial services division.

The acquisition of ClarityBlue hands the company's founder and chief executive, Duncan Painter, an £8m windfall. Mr Painter set up the company in 1999 as the UK arm of its then Canadian parent, Sand Technology. He led a management buyout backed by ECI Partners, the private-equity group, to acquire ClarityBlue in August 2003 for £9m.

His company provides bespoke marketing database solutions that help groups such as BSkyB and Orange target their marketing more precisely. For example, it uses information on BSkyB's database to flesh out a particular customer's preferences, such as which programmes they like watching and which socio-economic group they are in. Its clients include financial services providers, internet service providers and mobile phone operators.

The deal values ClarityBlue at £85m, including debt, and GUS has promised to pay an earn-out of up to £15m over three years. ECI Partners said that it had made eight times the value of its original investment.

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