Ransom slips out of family hands after 'unacceptable' performance

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Control of William Ransom & Son, the UK's oldest independent pharmaceutical company, is to leave family hands after 160 years, as the chief executive stepped down in the wake of "disappointing and unacceptable" first-half results.

Shares in the Hertfordshire-based group fell 2p to 11p yesterday as it announced that pre-tax profits had fallen from 2m in the six months to the end of September in 2006 to 600,000 this year. The group blamed performance problems at its pharmaceutical manufacturing site, which had caused the company to issue a profits warning two months ago.

David Suddens, non-executive chairman, said: "This has been a disappointing and unacceptable performance. The board needs to achieve greater focus, particularly as UK consumer market conditions arelikely to remain unhelpful."

The performance has led to Tim Dye agreeing to leave his post as chief executive at the end of January "by mutual consent" after he was understood to have lost the support of several major shareholders.

Mr Dye, 44, became chief executive in 1999. He is related to the Ransom family by marriage.

The company said the search for his successor is under way, with a source close to the group adding it is likely to be an appointment outside the family for the first time.

The company was founded in 1846 by the Quaker philanthropist and botanist William Ransom. It employs more than 200.

Mr Suddens said: "The changes announced today are intended to provide the platform for improved performance in the future."

It has been a tough year for the group, with the share price falling over 80 per cent from 55.5p to 11p yesterday.