Rentokil's new chief wields the axe

The new chief executive of Rentokil Initial has axed seven members of his senior management team as part of a strategic review.

James Wilde, who succeeded Sir Clive Thompson as chief executive last month, has made the changes as part of a decision to organise the business along divisional lines rather than geographic areas. Two regional managing directors are leaving along with five senior managers, all below board level. The central marketing function is also being disbanded.

The changes see the demotion of Ted Brown, the former chief operating officer who lost out to Mr Wilde for the top job. Mr Brown, who also used to be marketing director, stays with the company but becomes managing director in charge of pest control, washroom services and tropical plants. "He's understood for a long time that I'm going to be chief executive and he's not," Mr Wilde said. "I think he's rising to the challenge and enjoying himself."

Mr Wilde said the changes would make the group more efficient and responsive. He also said there had been a smooth handover of responsibilities from Sir Clive, who led the group for 20 years.

Unlike Sir Clive, who became known as "Mr 20 per cent" for his aim of increasing earnings by that figure every year, Mr Wilde declined to set any targets. Asked if he might be called "Mr Substantially Outperform", he said: "I'm just going to be James Wilde."

The comments came as Rentokil reported pre-tax profits up 4 per cent to £390m for the year to December. Organic sales grew 5 per cent. The group bought back £229m of its shares in the year and pledged to continue the programme. The shares closed 3.5p higher at 176p.

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