Spotlight On... Richard Balfour-Lynn, chief executive, MWB Group

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Isn't he big in hotels?

Richard Balfour-Lynn has been in the property industry for 30 years. He set up Warwick Balfour Properties, a development and investment company, in 1982. In 1994 he founded MWB, which he floated three years later before spending £140m on the Malmaison chain of boutique hotels and the Hotel du Vin group.

A wheeler-dealer then?

Yes, and very busy with it. MWB also owns most of MWB Business Exchange, a serviced office business, and up until six months ago Mr Balfour-Lynn – who described himself once as a "natural interferer" – also ran the De Vere hotel and leisure group.

But he's not meddling any more?No, he's off. He's quitting as chief executive and leaving the MWB board, although he will retain his 10 per cent stake in the business. "This has been a hard decision for me as I have been with MWB Group most of my working life," he says. MWB chairman Eric Sanderson called him an "exceptional entrepreneur".

So he's widely loved?

Erm, no. MWB's biggest shareholder, investment fund Pyrrho, is rather glad to see the back of him. Pyrrho, the large independent investor in MWB, waved a less than tearful farewell yesterday.

Why are they so annoyed?

They said "During his tenure at MWB, Mr Balfour-Lynn presided over a massive and unacceptable destruction of shareholder value since late 2009 when we first invested in the company, with the share price falling more than 75 per cent in the past year alone."

No wonder they're narked?Exactly. When Pyrrho bought in more than two years ago, shares were trading at around 40p. They've slumped to just 8p, costing the firm around £10m in losses on its stake. The company is worth just £13m today. Pyrrho also engaged in a very public row with MWB last summer when it blocked Balfour-Lynn's attempts to take complete control of MWB Business Exchange after rejecting a higher offer from another bidder.