Leighton set to revamp Pace as new chairman

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The Independent Online

Allan Leighton has vowed to turn around the set-top box maker Pace after it appointed the City grandee as chairman in the latest attempt to put a troubled few months behind it. The Yorkshire-based company saw 40 per cent of its value wiped off after it warned on profits last month, putting the management under pressure.

Pace had been drawing up succession plans for existing chairman Mike McTighe, who is in his tenth year on the board, his fifth as chairman, before it ran into difficulties.

Yet it moved quickly in the wake of calls for change at the top after revealing a major US client had delayed its contract, before subsequently warning on profits.

Mr Leighton has experience of company turnarounds as chief executive of Asda and chairman of the Royal Mail. He joins the company in the summer and is to kick-off his tenure with a strategic review of the business. He said his appointment should have a "catalytic effect on management".

He added that he had watched Pace's development "with both its ups and bumps" for 15 years. "I've always felt there is a great technology company in there," he added.

"My task now with the management and the board is to deliver that great technology company and the value that goes with it without the bumps." Mr Leighton has most recently worked in Canada as president of the Loblaw super-market group.

The chief executive Neil Gaydon, who brought Pace back from the brink of bankruptcy, said Mr McTighe had played a "key role" in Pace's march to becoming the largest set-top box maker in the world.

Mr McTighe said: "Despite the recent setbacks, Pace is well positioned for the long term and I am confident it will continue to lead the global digital TV market."

Execution Noble analysts said the leadership change was "welcome" given the disappointing updates. They added there could be several results of the strategic review, including further changes in the senior management team and added that "an outright sale is possible".

Mr Leighton admitted he was "not a techie", but added his role as a director at Dyson and Lastminute.com would give him insight.

Pace warned on profits last month after it was hit by supply chain issues, intensified by the earthquake in Japan. The news wiped £190m off the company's value. This followed news that a major US client had delayed renewing its contract.