Shares in FTSE 100-listed caterer Compass Group opened lower after the tragic death of chief executive Richard Cousins.
The company confirmed this morning that Cousins and four members of his family died in a plane crash in Australia on New Year's Eve, and said it was bringing forward the appointment of Dominic Blakemore, who was due to replace him as chief executive in April.
"We are deeply shocked and saddened by this terrible news," said Paul Walsh, the company's chairman.
"The thoughts of everyone at Compass are with Richard's family and friends, and we extend our deepest sympathies to them.
"It has been a great privilege to know Richard personally and to work with him for the last few years. Richard was known and respected for his great humanity and a no-nonsense style that transformed Compass into one of Britain's leading companies."
In September last year, Cousins announced plans to step down from his role after 11 years.
At the time, analysts at Credit Suisse paid tribute: "Whilst we wouldn’t wish to be accused of hyperbole, we consider Richard's tenure as CEO of Compass to be nothing short of exceptional."
Walsh added: "In the past 11 years Richard has transformed Compass into an industry leading organisation that delivers excellent food services to our clients, attracts and develops great people and generates significant returns for our shareholders."
New Year's Eve crash
Yesterday Cousins was named as one of six people killed in the plane crash in Sydney. Also on the tourist flight were Cousins' sons Edward and Will, his fiancee Emma Bowden and her 11-year-old daughter Heather. The pilot, Gareth Morgan, was also killed.
Cousins' son Will was head of press for anti-Brexit campaign Open Britain. Yesterday chairman Roland Rudd paid tribute to an "extraordinary young man who was passionate about what he did".