Haythornthwaite steps aside after keeping Invensys afloat

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The Independent Online

Rick Haythornthwaite is to hand over the chief executive job at Invensys, the engineering group, to his deputy Ulf Henriksson.

Rick Haythornthwaite is to hand over the chief executive job at Invensys, the engineering group, to his deputy Ulf Henriksson.

Mr Haythornthwaite, 48, said the "time has arrived" for him to move on, after leading a turnaround in the fortunes of the controls and automation group.

He will step down in July, to be succeeded by the chief operating officer Mr Henriksson, who was recruited a year ago and has a strong background in the sector.

Mr Haythornthwaite shot to prominence in his previous job as chief executive of Blue Circle, when he successfully defended the cement maker against a hostile bid from Lafarge of France - though the British company later agreed a takeover deal with Lafarge.

At Invensys, where Mr Haythornthwaite has been chief executive since October 2001, he was plunged into a situation where he had to oversee wholesale restructuring of the business, as the company struggled under a debt mountain and uncertain world markets. Last year he pulled off a £2.7bn refinancing deal.

He said he did not want to "go plural" in his next role but would be seeking another chief executive job in the quoted or private arenas.

"It was a battle for survival [at Invensys]. You don't want too many of those in your life. It would be nice to think that my next company would have an element of growth, rather than just recovery," he said.

He has rebuffed a number of attempts to poach him in the past few years, and has notstarted looking for a new job.

Mr Haythornthwaite said that, had he realised the scale of the difficulties at Invensys, he would never have taken on the job. But, having been appointed, he had to see it through.

"This was a highly complicated company, containing unconsummated mergers, with no structure. We had to pick it apart piece by piece.... We were working against falling markets, a deeply sick business and poor customer relationships," he said.

The company comprised 26 businesses with debt of £3.5bn when Mr Haythornthwaite took over. It now has six businesses and debt of £792m after a slew of disposals.

He said that the difference between the company's situation in 2001 and now was "like night and day".

Invensys reported an operating profit of £169m for its continuing businesses, for the year to March. Analysts said cash generation - a key concern - was better than expected, with a net inflow of £38m, against a £40m outflow last time.

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