TO BE honest, my eight-year old nephew could become executive chairman of Mitchells & Butlers and the pubs firm would enjoy more stability than it has in recent years. This is the ninth change in either chief executive or chairman in the last four years. Hopefully Bob Ivell will stick around for longer than his predecessors. He is said to have a good relationship with activist shareholder Joe Lewis, which should help.
There is no doubt that Ivell is an industry pro. His CV includes executive stints at Scottish & Newcastle and Whitbread, and he is a director of soft drinks company Britvic. In M&B, he now controls one of the best portfolios of pubs in the business, with a strong focus on the increasingly important pub-with-food segment.
Its share price and operational performance has been hurt by the interminable board-room soap opera. Ivell’s first job will be to steady the ship.
Next, he must find a chief executive. In many ways it is a plum job, but potential candidates are sure to be deterred by the fates of their predecessors. Analysts say the appointment of a bright young turk or an internal candidate – which both carry risks – is the most likely outcome.
Like all consumer-facing industries, pubs are suffering as real wages are hit by pay freezes and soaring inflation. But beneath the constant director bust-ups, brands like All Bar One give M&B a real competitive advantage.
Hopefully Ivell can stop squandering it by bringing some much-needed stability to the company.