'Soap opera' at M&B continues as latest chief executive exits

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The Independent Online

Adam Fowle, the chief executive of Mitchells & Butlers, is to leave the pub and restaurant group after only two years in the role, perpetuating the image of a corporate "soap opera" and a boardroom with a revolving door.

The departure of Mr Fowle –who first joined M&B in 1984 then left to join Sainsbury's for a period before returning in 2005 – by "mutual consent" leaves the owner of the Toby Carvery chain searching for its third chief executive in a little over two years and follows the exit of its chairman John Lovering this year. Simon Burke replaced Mr Lovering, the former chair of Debenhams, as chairman in February and one of its non-executives, Jeremy Blood, will become M&B's interim chief executive until a permanent replacement is found.

Mark Brumby, an analyst at Langton Capital, said: "The company has also marked up four chairmen and two finance directors and the continued management changes may weigh on the company's shares." Shares in M&B, which also owns the All Bar One and O'Neill's chains, fell by 10.2p to 289p.

The exit of Mr Fowle prompted speculation that Joe Lewis, the British tycoon who owns 23 per cent of M&B, may have not seen eye to eye with him on strategy. M&B's other big shareholders are JP McManus and John Magnier who have an 18 per cent stake through their Elpida vehicle. Nigel Parson, an analyst at Evolution Securities, said: "Was he [Mr Fowle] pushed? Did he jump? Are the hands of Joe Lewis and Elpida [Magnier and McManus] at work? The soap-opera that is Mitchells & Butlers continues to run and run..." Others suggested that Mr Burke may have wanted to make a clean break from the past. Mr Burke said: "Adam has made a significant contribution over a number of years to Mitchells & Butlers." He added that Mr Blood, who was previously managing director at the brewer Scottish & Newcastle from 2007 to 2009, has "significant industry and corporate experience". M&B said it was "performing in line" with expectations.