New Quarto boss aiming to put boardroom coup behind firm

THE new chief executive of publishing company Quarto will outline his plans for a revamped, leaner company this week as he faces the City after a shareholder coup defenestrated his predecessor.

Laurence Orbach, who founded the company in 1976 and remains a large shareholder, was dramatically ousted in November at a special meeting forced by activist investor Harwood Capital.

He was replaced by former Barnes & Noble executive Marcus Leaver, who had been due to take over from Orbach in June this year but found himself in the role six months ahead of schedule. Orbach was set to become chairman but the role has been taken by industry veteran Tim Chadwick.

At Quarto’s annual results announcement tomorrow, Leaver will present a plan for a more operationally efficient group with a focus on reducing the company’s debt pile. Quarto, which publishes illustrated books ranging from The Complete Guide to Ceramic Tile to The Bedside Kama Sutra, is expected to deliver 2012 revenues roughly flat on the previous year, although with a strong final quarter boosted by Christmas sales.

Although Quarto shareholders were divided on Orbach’s departure, with only a slim majority voting against him, Leaver believes he has the full support of investors, and is keen to communicate Quarto’s strategy better than his predecessor, who was criticised for making a series of acquisitions without adequately explaining them. Leaver has appointed new financial and PR advisers since taking over.

Changes could include selling non-core assets, such as Western Screen & Sign, a printing business based in Wiltshire, and Regent, a brokering firm in Hong Kong.