Greggs lands boss of Punch Taverns to take the helm

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The Independent Online

Bakery chain Greggs has poached the chief executive of Punch Taverns and a former big-hitting food retailer, Roger Whiteside, as its new boss.

Mr Whiteside, who ran Marks & Spencer's food division before becoming a founding managing director of Ocado, is quitting the struggling, debt-laden pub company almost immediately and starting at Greggs on 4 February.

He has been a non-executive at Greggs for the past four years and has backed outgoing chief executive's Ken McMeikan's growth strategy for some time.

Mr Whiteside, 54, said: "Greggs is a great business with an iconic brand that has strengthened considerably over the past few years. I believe we have a great future."

He is likely to receive a similar pay package to Mr McMeikan, whose salary was £470,000 in 2012.

Punch said while it is in the middle of debt-for-equity swap negotiations with its bond and debt holders, it would not appoint a new chief executive. Instead, non-executive chairman Stephen Billingham will become executive chairman. Property and turnaround director Neil Griffiths will be chief operating officer.

The group said this arrangement would "ensure continuity in the leadership of Punch, particularly during the ongoing capital structure discussions".

Punch is trying to manage its way through £2.4bn of securitised debt. It said negotiations to make its borrowings more manageable continued.

Trading remains in line with expectations, it added.

Punch's shares slipped 0.38p to 10.88p. At that price the company's stock market value is just £73m.