The appointment of Trevor Grice on a pounds 220,000-plus salary comes as Wace struggles under heavy debts, but he was saying little yesterday about plans to reduce them. 'I don't start for another four weeks. My style is to look and touch before I open my mouth,' Mr Grice, former chief executive of Renold, the chain maker, said.
But Mr Grice, 51, a Yorkshireman who believed one reason for his appointment was his straight talking, did not deny that tackling Wace's high borrowings was important. 'It is no secret that I have got to do something about borrowings, even the Queen knows that,' he said.
In the six months to end-June pre-tax profits were down 28 per cent at pounds 5.6m, with the British printing operations bearing the brunt of recession. At the time, net debt stood at pounds 91m, and gearing is still expected to be above 100 per cent by the end of the year.
Frans ten Bos, Wace's chairman, said there had been a 'perceived void' since Mr Clegg resigned in January. But Mr ten Bos said he had been working on plans to restructure the company's worldwide operations. 'These are strategic decisions that are awaiting implementation,' he said. Mr Grice is expected to endorse the plans.
Tim Rothwell, of BZW, the broker, expects to see rationalisation of Wace's 100 profit centres, and further attempts to sell its many unoccupied properties.
He forecasts pre-tax profits for the full-year of pounds 16m.
Mr Grice won respect in the City for the way in which he restructured Renold, which he joined in 1987. Before that he was managing director of Frank Horsell, a supplier of printing equipment.
Mr ten Bos said Mr Grice's salary would be 'about the same as Mr Clegg's, perhaps a little more'. Mr Clegg's basic pay was pounds 221,000.
In January, Wace was hit by rumours of money-laundering for terrorists, and soon afterwards the DTI began an inquiry into share dealings at a company Wace bought in 1990. Yesterday the DTI said its investigation was continuing. Mr ten Bos said he was certain that no one at Wace was implicated.