HBOS in­quiry hangs over new boss at Waga­mama

Shamed ex-banker Andy Hornby lands £4m job but...

Daily Mail - - City & Finance - by Han­nah Ut­t­ley

THE dis­graced for­mer boss of HBOS has been named chief ex­ec­u­tive of a stock mar­ketlisted company for the first time since the fi­nan­cial crisis, de­spite an on­go­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the near-col­lapse of his bank.

Andy Hornby ( pic­tured) will take over at The Res­tau­rant Group, which has more than 650 out­lets un­der brands in­clud­ing Waga­mama, Chiq­uito, Gar­funkel’s and Frankie & Benny’s. The 52-year- old could earn as much as £3.9m in his first year at the helm of the company.

But his ap­point­ment raised eye­brows in the City last night, given the live probe by the Fi­nan­cial Con­duct Author­ity (FCA) into se­nior man­age­ment at HBOS at the time of its demise a decade ago. David Buik, a mar­ket com­men­ta­tor at Core Spreads, said The Res­tau­rant Group had taken ‘a real flyer’ em­ploy­ing Hornby.

Laith Kha­laf, se­nior an­a­lyst at Har­g­reaves Lans­down, said: ‘There’s clearly a rep­u­ta­tional risk there, that if the FCA even­tu­ally comes out with some­thing un­pleas­ant about HBOS – or Andy Hornby – it’s go­ing to be a bit of a headache for The Res­tau­rant Group.’

An­nounc­ing Hornby’s ap­point­ment, The Res­tau­rant Group noted that two re­ports into the fail­ure of HBOS by the Par­lia­men­tary Com­mis­sion on Bank­ing Stan­dards and the FCA ‘ in­cluded ad­verse com­ment re­gard­ing cer­tain ac­tions of var­i­ous mem­bers of se­nior man­age­ment, in­clud­ing Andy Hornby’. But it made no ref­er­ence to a sep­a­rate on­go­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion by the FCA into the ac­tions of HBOS bosses be­fore the bank was res­cued by the tax­payer in a £20bn bailout. In­stead, The Res­tau­rant Group chair­man Deb­bie He­witt said she was ‘de­lighted’ to wel­come Hornby to the company and praised his ‘ex­ten­sive re­tail back­ground’.

Hornby held high-pro­file jobs at Asda be­fore join­ing HBOS, and at Boots and Lad­brokes Co­ral in the decade since his ac­ri­mo­nious de­par­ture. How­ever, this is his first job as chief ex­ec­u­tive of a listed company since leav­ing HBOS.

Russ Mould, in­vest­ment di­rec­tor at AJ Bell, said Hornby’s CV made him a strong can­di­date for his new po­si­tion. But he added: ‘Un­for­tu­nately for him, wher­ever he goes the four let­ters – HBOS – will fol­low, es­pe­cially as reg­u­la­tors are still in­ves­ti­gat­ing the bank’s nearcol­lapse and his role in its neardeath ex­pe­ri­ence as its chief ex­ec­u­tive.’ Greg Johnson, an an­a­lyst at Shore Cap­i­tal, added: ‘It does throw up a po­ten­tial is­sue were some­thing to come out of the FCA’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion.’

Hornby’s move will see him reunited with re­tail big­wig Al­lan Leighton, who was chief ex­ec­u­tive of Asda when Hornby was there, and is now a non-ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor at The Res­tau­rant Group. The Res­tau­rant Group is al­ready bat­tling a down­turn on the High Street and stiff com­pe­ti­tion from on­line food de­liv­ery ser­vices such as De­liv­eroo and Just eat.

In De­cem­ber, it forked out £559m on the hugely pop­u­lar noo­dle chain Waga­mama, which added an­other 200 restau­rants to its port­fo­lio.

Prof­its halved to £13.9m last year af­ter it was bat­tered by costs re­lat­ing to store clo­sures and the Waga­mama pur­chase.

Hornby will re­place Andy McCue, who quit abruptly in Fe­bru­ary for per­sonal rea­sons.

Hornby said: ‘I am de­lighted to be join­ing at such an ex­cit­ing time. This is a great busi­ness, with strong brands, com­mit­ted col­leagues and tremen­dous po­ten­tial to grow.’

An­a­lysts at Bar­clays, how­ever, praised Hornby’s track record. They added: ‘We be­lieve that many sec­tor ex­ec­u­tives may have re­garded this as an unattrac­tive or risky role to take on.

‘Hornby has sig­nif­i­cant ex­pe­ri­ence in a re­tail en­vi­ron­ment, in­clud­ing man­ag­ing dig­i­tal trans­for­ma­tion and in­te­grat­ing busi­nesses, so while the sec­tor is dif­fer­ent, much of the skill- set needed is rel­e­vant.

‘Con­versely, a po­ten­tial con­cern is that be­cause Hornby is not from the sec­tor, it may take more time for the new chief ex­ec­u­tive to adapt as an in­dus­try ex­ec­u­tive.’ The FCA and Res­tau­rant Group de­clined to com­ment last night. Shares in The Res­tau­rant Group closed up 1pc, or 1.5p, at

146.5p yes­ter­day.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.