M&B sales fall amid board upheaval

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The chairman of Mitchells & Butlers has admitted its high turnover of executives has been "unhelpful" but defended its performance against criticism from a key shareholder, Joe Lewis.

Bob Ivell made his comments as M&B, which owns the Toby Carvery pubs, posted a pre-tax profit of £132m for the year to 24 September yesterday. This followed a £127m loss, from restructuring charges, in 2009-10.

But he admitted frequent boardroom changes "clearly did not help". The departure of its interim chief executive Jeremy Blood last month was the ninth change of a chairman or CEO in four years. Mr Ivell said its search for a chief executive and non-executives was "progressing".

Total sales at M&B fell 4.9 per cent to £1.76bn over the year, after it sold 333 non-core pubs, lodges and Hollywood Bowl. Strong food sales helped like-for-like sales rise 2.6 per cent.

But Mr Lewis – the billionaire who has a 22.8 per cent stake in M&B through his Piedmont vehicle – appeared far from satisfied. Sources close to Piedmont, which walked away from a 230p bid for M&B last month, criticised areas, such as a 0.7 per cent fall in its operating margin, no dividend payments, and losses on currency swaps. The shares closed down 0.8p at 216p yesterday.