Spotlight On... Alistair Darby; Chief executive, Mitchells & Butlers

I think I've seen this bloke down my local...

That is possible, as Alistair Darby has spent the last 15 years at Marston's, the brewer and pub operator, most recently as chief operating officer.

Is he still pulling pints at Marston's?

No, he jumped ship to bigger pub operator Mitchells & Butlers, the owner of the Harvester, Toby Carvery and All Bar One chains, to be its chief executive nearly two months ago.

Isn't M&B known for its revolving boardroom door?

Mr Darby is the tenth change of chief executive or chairman in 10 years.

Does the boardroom have itchy seats?

Not sure but M&B has been a lively place since Joe Lewis, the billionaire currency trader, first acquired a stake in the group in 2008. He now holds a 26.3 per cent stake.

Come again?

Mr Lewis's Piedmont investment vehicle walked away from a near-£3bn bid for the pub group in October 2011.

Mr Darby is a diplomat then?

It appears so. He said he met Mr Lewis in the run-up to accepting the job at M&B, as he felt it was the "right and proper" thing to do.

What is he likely to do with M&B?

He says the pub operator needs to "execute better" to drive higher sales growth, but is adamant it has the "right strategy".

How did it perform last year?

Resilient was the word, as M&B grew its underlying profits by 4 per cent to £166m over the year to September.

What about Darby himself?

He describes himself as an "ambitious chap" who has three daughters and lives in Worcestershire. He is also a gardener and loves the cinema.

Exercise?

He enjoys running and did the New York Marathon in 2004. These days, he runs to offset the "vicissitudes" of working in the hospitality industry.

Anything else?

Mr Darby is a decent cook, but admits he's not "Gordon Ramsay-esque".

He has an apron then?

Funnily enough, he does. His wife bought him an apron that reads "I cook better than I kiss". For the record, Mr Darby doubts this, as he claims to be a "good kisser".

Any pets?

He has two Staffordshire bull terriers, which apparently fit the stereotype by barking at all and sundry on walks in the park.

Mr Darby is well protected then if Joe Lewis gets angry?

Now, now. Mr Darby says: "I have the best job in the industry."

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