Sage boss decides it is wise to retire

PAUL Walker, one of the UK’s longest serving FTSE 100 bosses, has decided to stand down as chief executive of Sage.

The company has hired the headhunter Russell Reynold Associates to find a replacement, although the company declined to say how long the process might take.

The leading candidates to succeed him include the current finance director, Paul Harrison, and Paul Stobart who runs the group’s UK and Ireland business. Russell Reynold is also considering external candidates.

Walker, 52, is understood to be looking for a fresh start having spent 26 years at Sage. He joined the company in 1984 and was finance director for seven years.

The company said: “After 16 years as chief executive of Sage, Paul Walker has notified the Board of his decision to stand down in due course. A process of management succession is under way and both Paul and the board are working towards a seamless transition.”

Walker built Sage into one of the Britain’s biggest software developers along with former chairman Michael Jackson, who left in 2006 after 22 years. Sage now has 15,000 staff and £3bn in turnover.

The Newcastle-based company has grown its presence in America over the past five years, having acquired Verus, a payment processing business, and Emdeon, a healthcare specialist in 2006. North America now makes up 40 per cent of its 6.1m customers.

Sales remain healthy and pre-tax profits increased 11 per cent to £267m last year.