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Queens Moat founder quits: Sweeping changes at hotels group as new chief executive takes over

ANDREW COPPEL checked in yesterday as group chief executive at Queens Moat Houses, the hotels group suspended on the stock market three months ago, and instigated sweeping boardroom changes including the ousting of John Bairstow, founder of the group.

Mr Bairstow, formerly chairman and joint managing director, has relinquished all his executive duties but will continue as non-executive chairman until a new chairman is found.

Mr Coppel, former finance director at Ratners and ex-chief executive of the failed Sale Tilney, was appointed consultant to Queens Moat in April. His decision to accept the post was viewed in the City as mildly encouraging for shareholders. The shares were suspended at 47.5p on 31 March.

Mr Coppel said yesterday that he and his team, including merchant bankers and his former employer, Morgan Grenfell, had until the end of October to produce a strategic plan for a restructuring.

The company's 65 banks, led by Barclays and National Westminster, are owed more than pounds 1bn.

'I would not have accepted if I didn't believe that the company could be successfully restructured,' he said. 'I had to be assured of the support of our core bankers and also the flexibility to make boardroom and management changes as I saw fit. My job now is to maximise value for shareholders. The key problem at Queens Moat has been a lack of financial controls in recent years in a group which outgrew its management.'

The question of compensation for Mr Bairstow had not been an issue, and if it were raised appropriate advice would be taken.

Robert Abson, Peter Bertholdt and Leo Van de Meer have given up their boardroom roles in overseeing the UK, Germany and the Netherlands but will retain operational responsibilities in those countries.

Alan Porter, assistant finance director, has resigned. In May David Hersey stepped down as finance director along with Martin Marcus, formerly deputy chairman. Gerald Bell remains executive director in charge of the group's hotel division.

With the exception of David Howell, the former energy secretary, and John Gale, a retired senior executive with National Westminster, all Queens Moat's non-executive directors are to leave.

They include Eric Earey, Ted Lowe, the snooker commentator, John Maddern and Maurice Hart, a retired senior partner of Bird Luckin, the group's auditors, who have been replaced by Coopers & Lybrand.

Mr Coppel said his remuneration included a basic salary, share options and incentives based on a successful relisting and restructuring of Queens Moat. He denied weekend reports that he stood to make a fortune out of a rescue of the company, saying that his package was within Association of British Insurers guidelines.

(Photograph omitted)