The Business On... David Illingworth, Chief executive, Smith & Nephew

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The Independent Online

But not for much longer, we hear?

That's right, yesterday he announced plans to retire.

He doesn't look old enough.

He's 57, so he won't be able to claim his winter fuel allowance for a few years yet.

So has be been forced out?

Not obviously. Hired four years ago after S&N made a mess of a takeover it was pursuing, Mr Illingworth has proved to be a safe pair of hands,cutting costs and building thecompany's profitability. So much so, that there is all sorts to takeover speculation surrounding the artificial joint maker itself. But he insists his departure is nothing to do with that and he also promises he hasn't got a new job.

So what is he going to do?

It looks as if he is heading back to the US, where his wife and grown-up children have remained during his tenure at S&N. He wouldn't have been eligible for winter fuel allowance in any case, since he's not a British citizen. Born in Toronto, he moved to Florida as a young child and went to university in Texas.

He is looking forward to a life of leisure then?

Maybe; he has certainly beenwell-rewarded during his time at the company. And he's known as a keen golfer and scuba-diver. But don't rule out him taking another job closer to home. Mr Illingworth has too long a track record in the industry forsomeone not to approach him. He also has associations with some small technology start-ups, so maybe a non-executive directorship will take his fancy.

And what next for S&N?

Watch this space. It has already found a new chief executive, one Olivier Bohuon, who runs the French pharmaceutical company Pierre Fabre. He's not lacking in experience either, having had long stints at Abbot Laboratories and GSK, but the bigger question is whether S&N will still be an independentcompany by the time he arrives in April. It has rejected two takeover advances already this year, but the sharks are still circling.