Pub chief Ian Dyson to exit in high spirits

IAN DYSON, chief executive of Spirit, the managed pub operator that demerged from Punch Taverns this year, will step down as chief executive on 16 December and hand the reins to his deputy, Mike Tye.

The former Marks & Spencer finance chief was parachuted in to run Punch Taverns in September last year and decided to split the debt-laden company into two, becoming chief executive of the Spirit division when it demerged in August.

Dyson, who receives a total salary of around £860,000, will receive a pay-off of the same sum paid in two parts – one of about £400,000 when he steps down in December with a further £400,000 if he hasn’t found another job by 1 April.

Spirit’s 800 pubs, which include brands such as Chef & Brewer and Fayre & Square, posted a 17 per cent rise in profits to £48m in the year to 20 August, with like-for-like sales up by 5.2 per cent, although it admits it still lags “behind the best performers in the industry”.

“I think we have shown through investment in the brands such as Fayre & Square that we can be a major player and we have just got to deliver again next year,” Dyson told City A.M.

Punch Taverns, the owner of 5,000 tenanted pubs but worth less than Spirit because of its large debt-pile, said full-year pretax profit fell £14m to £76m.

Shares in Spirit were lifted 7.41 per cent closing at 43.5p yesterday.

PROFILE | IAN DYSON

WHERE next for Ian Dyson?

A little over a year ago, he surprised the corporate world when he made the jump from finance chief of Marks & Spencer to chief executive of Punch Taverns, and could well surprise again with his next choice of move.

“The restructuring [of Punch Taverns] was best done with someone with the financial director background, which Dyson did well,” one headhunter familiar with the company said, adding that returning to a finance chief role could be likely, if it meant a quicker succession to a bigger chief executive role.

Dyson, who was also finance director at Rank, has been touted as a favourite for the chief executive post at Betfair, where he is already a non-exec.

But that post would have to stay open at least until December. Under his exit agreement, Dyson won’t get his payoff if he accepts a post before Christmas. For the time being, Dyson’s thoughts are solely focused on the job at hand:

“Yes I might get a couple of calls ... but the last bit of work I need to make sure I do well is the transition to Mike (Tye). I want to give the business all my attention.”