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Hutchings makes Lupus exit

David Hellier
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THE entrepreneur Greg Hutchings yesterday stood down from his executive chairman role at Lupus Capital, the group he founded in 2004 to invest in building materials and construction-related businesses, as it renegotiated its banking facilities.<br /><br />Lupus has for some months been struggling because of its exposure to the moribund housing market and has been weighed down by its &pound;135m debts.<br /><br />Yesterday it said it had agreed new banking arrangements, but at a cost of &pound;7.5m in fees and expenses and increased interest margins. Under the terms of the new deal, the facilities now extend until mid 2012.<br /><br />Hutchings, whose will be get a &pound;500,000 pay-off based on his annual salary of the same amount, is being replaced as chairman by non-executive director Michael Jackson, formerly of Sage.<br /><br />And Lupus will bring in former Torex Retail boss Keith Taylor as its new chief executive.<br /><br />Paul Felton-Smith, who has been chief financial officer at Metronet since 2007, is being brought in as chief financial officer.<br /><br />Lupus said about its trading: &ldquo;Despite there being limited improvement in the overall economic environment outlook, the company is currently performing in line with management expectations, but, as normal, forward order visibility in the building products business remains short.&rdquo;<br /><br />Shares in Lupus fell nearly 30 per cent on the release of Hutchings&rsquo; departure to 15.5p. The fall follows a strong run earlier in the week. House broker Collins Stewart said yesterday it expected Lupus to consider disposals or possibly a share issue to help strengthen its balance sheet.<br /><br /><strong>GREG HUTCHINGS<br /></strong><strong>FORMER EXECUTIVE CHAIRMAN, LUPUS CAPITAL</strong><br />NOW in his early sixties, Greg Hutchings has been a major player in the UK business scene since the early 1980s when he left the iconic Hanson Trust to set up a mini-conglomerate of his own called Tomkins.<br /><br />Hutchings took some of the skills he learnt at Hanson, such as having a good nose for an acquisition and then applied the famous Hansonesque cost-cutting techniques, to build the group up at one point to have a market capitalsiation of around &pound;2bn.<br /><br />His career at Tomkins ended unhappily, though, in 2000 after a faltering share price led shareholders to question his management style.<br /><br />There was a controversy about management perks, with questions asked about the company&rsquo;s ownership of three London apartments and the presence of both his wife and housekeeper on the group&rsquo;s pay-roll. Hutchings left the group although he was later cleared of any impropriety.<br /><br />He joined Lupus in 2004 as executive chairman and got off to a good start, putting together a series of acquisitions in the building materials and construction sector.<br /><br />But the group&rsquo;s reliance on the troubled housing sector for its custom and its large debts saw him call it a day yesterday, taking his one year&rsquo;s salary with him.