SECURITY firm G4S yesterday announced that Nick Buckles, the chief executive who came under fire for the botched handling of the Olympics contract last year and a failed takeover, will step down at the end of the month.
Buckles, who leaves with cash compensation of £1.1m, will be replaced by Ashley Almanza, who joined the company as finance chief only a few weeks ago from BG.
The FTSE 100-listed company said Eddie Aston will join from logistics firm DHL to take up the newly-created role of chief operating officer.
The management changes are an attempt to salvage the firm’s reputation after a series of setbacks including the failed acquisition of Danish facilities management group ISS and a recent profits warning which dented investor confidence.
Stuart Curl, the group’s regional finance chief for the UK, Ireland and Africa will fill in for Almanza until a permanent replacement is found.
“It was slightly surprising to us that Almanza took the [CFO] job originally, given G4S is a tenth the size of BG, leaving the impression he was being lined up to succeed Buckles,” said Barclays in a note. “It just wasn’t expected quite so soon.”
Analysts have suggested that the new appointments will be popular with shareholders. “Investors like the idea that while Almanza is an internal candidate, he is almost akin to an outsider as he only started the job a few weeks ago,” Mike van Dulken of Accendo Markets, told City A.M.
Chairman John Connolly said that he, the company’s advisers, and Buckles had been giving much thought to when to make the changes since the profits warning. “He [Buckles] knew that it was the time to go,” he said last night.
PROFILE: NICK BUCKLES
UNFORTUNATELY for outgoing G4S chief executive Nick Buckles, his tenure at the firm is most likely to be remembered for three things – last year’s bungled Olympic contract, the failed bid for ISS, and his impressive head of hair.
But the 52-year-old’s history with the firm goes back much further. After a brief post-graduation stint at cosmetics giant Avon, Buckles joined G4S legacy firm Securicor in 1985, made the board in 2000 and became chief executive in 2002, leading the firm through its merger with Group 4 Falck to become the support services titan we know today.
Yesterday one analyst said the company didn’t need a “swashbuckling stop-start Olympic sprinter” at its helm, but “more a steady marathon runner”. Buckles, who ran the London marathon in 2010 despite long-standing knee injuries and had long professed his desire to stay at the firm until the end of his career, will be sorry he didn’t make it to the finish line.