Compass CEO Richard Cousins and family killed in plane crash: The City pays tribute

 
Alys Key
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Richard Cousins was one of six killed in a seaplane crash
Richard Cousins was one of six killed in a seaplane crash (Source: Compass Group)

Tributes have been paid to the FTSE 100 chief executive who was killed alongside his family in a New Year's Eve plane crash.

Richard Cousins, 58, the outgoing CEO of the world's largest catering firm, Compass Group, died in a seaplane crash near Sydney Harbour on 31 December 2017.

Also killed were Cousins's two sons William, 25, and Edward, 23 as well as his fiancee Emma Bowden, 48, and her daughter Heather, 11. The pilot Gareth Morgan, 44, also died.

Compass chairman Paul Walsh said: "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."

Cousins had already been planning for his retirement, and was expected to leave the company at the end of March this year. Following his death, the company has confirmed that successor will take over as chief executive three months earlier than planned.

Compass's new CEO Dominic Blakemore said: "We are all stunned and upset at this tragic news, and our thoughts are with the families and friends of Richard and Emma.

"For the past six years Richard has been a friend and mentor to me. He combined Yorkshire grit with a wonderful sense of humour. It was his ability to lead and inspire his colleagues around the world that made Compass the success it is today."

Others in the business world have expressed shock and sadness at Cousins's death, and praised his success as a leader.

Former UK trade minister Lord Livingston became chief executive of BT Group shortly after Cousins began as boss of Compass. Livingston told City A.M. they had met several times, often touring the BT staff restaurants operated by Compass

"Despite running a business with hundreds of thousands of people he made time to come in and talk with big clients. He was very no-nonsense and hands-on," he said.

Livingston also praised the way Cousins turned Compass around following his appointment in 2006, taking the share price from 236p to 1,600p.

"He was a very good example of someone who took a challenged business and turned it into a world leader. We don't have too many of those in the UK."

Serco chief executive Rupert Soames tweeted in response to the news, saying that the tragedy was "terribly sad" and that Cousins had been "such an able man and a hugely respected CEO of Compass".

Meanwhile Adrian Bellamy, chairman of Reckitt Benckiser, praised Cousins, who had formerly served on the company's board. "It has been a great privilege to know Richard, both personally and professionally," he said.

"He was one of those rare examples of human beings who measured success by not only what he achieved for the companies he led, but also by the significant humanitarian contributions he made. It was a pleasure working on the board where he contributed in shaping RB current strategy."

More recently, Cousins served on the board of Tesco, leaving the company early last year.

John Allan, non-executive chairman of the Tesco board said: “Richard was a valued member of the Tesco board and was appreciated for his business acumen and straight talking. I was privileged to have known him for these years. We are shaken by this terrible news and our thoughts and condolences go to his friends and family.”

Sodexo chief executive Michel Landel said: “I had a lot of respect for Richard Cousins who was a highly recognized business leader in our industry. My sincere sympathies to his family."

He "ticked every single box", according to Panmure Gordon analyst David Buik. "He was probably the outstanding FTSE 100 CEO." Earlier this year Credit Suisse analyst Tim Ramskill said that Cousins's tenure had been "nothing short of exceptional".

Cousins was also a keen cricket fan, and helped oversee a joint venture between Compass and the Kia Oval.

Surrey County Cricket Club chairman Richard Thompson said Cousins had been looking forward to becoming more involved with cricket after his retirement.

“Richard was both a great man and a great businessman," said Thompson. "Sometimes you can be one; but not both. Richard managed both with real sincerity and integrity. He was a one off. I feel genuinely privileged to have known him."

Former England cricketer Paul Nixon also expressed his sadness at the news. "Richard loved his Cricket and was such a great man," he wrote on Twitter.

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