Blow for Punch as chief executive quits for Greggs

THE chief executive of Staffordshire pubco Punch Taverns has quit his role to take up a similar position with bakery chain Greggs.

Roger Whiteside has informed the Punch board of his decision and will step down on February 1. Whiteside is already a non-executive director with Greggs.

Punch said that to ensure continuity in the leadership of the group, particularly during ongoing capital structure discussions, Stephen Billingham had been appointed as Executive Chairman with Neil Griffiths stepping up to Chief Operating Officer, with immediate effect.

As a result, it said a new Chief Executive Officer would not be appointed immediately.

Billingham has been non-executive chairman of the pubco since September 2011, while Griffiths has been its property and turnaround director and has been with the group since 2001.  He has 25 years’ experience in the leisure and hospitality industry having held senior management roles in Warner Brothers and Bass.

Punch sad its current trading performance remained in line with the board’s expectations.

Led by finance director Steve Dando, the group said it was continuing its discussions with significant stakeholders and expected to make an announcement about its capital structure in due course.

Billingham said: “I would like to thank Roger for his significant contribution to the group over the last four years.  Roger and the board have set out a clear operational plan to return the core estate to growth and maximise value from our non-core assets.  I am confident that with the appointment of Neil Griffiths as COO and with the experienced management team in place at Punch we will continue with the progress we are making in delivering on these key strategic goals.”

Elsewhere, defence supplier Ultra, which has operations in Birmingham and Staffordshire, has appointed Mary Waldner as new FD in succession to Paul Dean.

Dean has agreed to become CFO of the diamonds business of Rio Tinto and will leave Ultra on March 31, 2013.

Waldner is currently Director, Group Finance of defence supplier QinetiQ. A date for her appointment has yet to be finalised.