The Business On... Javed Ahmed, Tate & Lyle

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The Independent Online

So Javed Ahmed's no sweetie?

Now then, don't be mean. But it's true that he has sold Lyle's Golden Syrup – by some reckonings the world's oldest brand – along with most of Tate & Lyle's historic sugar business to American Sugar Refining for about £200m. It's an end to 130 years of tradition and possibly an end to a fair few jobs at the company's sugar refining business in the East End.

Tate & Lyle without sugar?

We know. It seems like bread without butter, or the high street without Woolworths, but it's not exactly unexpected. Mr Ahmed wants to focus on the higher margin ingredients business, which isn't as susceptible to the fluctuations on the commodity markets that have previously plagued the company.

Boo, hiss!

Now, then. That's business, and the problem with Tate & Lyle is that it hasn't been very good at business. The performance over the last few years has been poor and Mr Ahmed was brought in to rectify that. This is another step in achieving that aim.

Can he do it?

Well he's 49, an American, and by reputation he's the sort of executive who appears to have had several glucose injections. He was highly rated at Reckitt Benckiser, a company which has done rather better for its shareholders than Tate's.

What else has he been up to?

At Tate? Putting a rocket under a lot of people, apparently. Employees have found that their pay has been much more closely aligned to performance. If they fail to shape up, they run the risk of losing a good chunk of it. Prior to Benckiser he spent five years with Bain & Co, working in both London and Boston, and got his MBA from Stanford.


Yes. It's said that he has very much energised the business and trained its focus on doing better for customers. That's still something of a rarity in British companies, so you never know, maybe he will turn a rather sour investment into a sugar-filled sweetie. But there'll be a few more eggs broken along the way.