The Daily Telegraph

Soames to ‘outsource himself ’ as he steps down as Serco chief

- By James Warrington

SERCO chief executive Rupert Soames is stepping down after leading an almost decade-long turnaround at the outsourcer.

Mr Soames, the grandson of Winston Churchill, said it was “now time to outsource myself ” as he confirmed he will leave the company by the end of the year. He will be replaced by Mark Irwin, a private equity veteran who joined Serco in 2013.

Mr Soames, 63, led a turnaround at the giant, which was rocked by scandal and had been without a permanent chief executive for four months when he took the reins in June 2014.

Serco, which holds millions of pounds worth of government contracts, was fined £68m in 2013 after overchargi­ng for electronic tagging of offenders.

The company billed the Government for tagging prisoners who were later found to be dead, in prison or overseas. A subsidiary took responsibi­lity for three offences of fraud and two of false accounting following an investigat­ion by the Serious Fraud Office.

Analysts at Jefferies said Mr Soames had been “instrument­al” in the turnaround and had strong investor support. Shares dropped more than 6pc following the announceme­nt of his exit. Mr Soames led Serco through a tough time for outsourcer­s that saw the collapse of rivals Interserve and Carillion.

He focused the group’s efforts on lucrative government contracts, including providing about a fifth of Covid testing sites and half of the call centre operators for the tracing system. John Rishton, chairman of Serco, said the company was “unrecognis­able” from the business Mr Soames took over.

He said: “Under his leadership, the business was stabilised, a clear strategy developed and executed, which has resulted in the strong and successful business it is today. Rupert should be really proud of what he has achieved.”

Serco shares are down 43pc since he took over. The outsourcin­g boss was an outspoken critic of so-called ethical investing, saying the rise of ESG (environmen­tal, social, and corporate governance) had put national security at risk by discouragi­ng investment in sectors like nuclear defence. He later accused some investors of making a “screeching U-turn” following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Serco last month raised its full-year profit forecast and dividend after it reported better than expected results for the first half. The firm lost £220m – or 10pc – of its revenues as the Test and Trace scheme was wound down.

 ?? ?? Rupert Soames, 63, is to leave Serco by the end of the year. Shares dropped more than 6pc on news he was leaving
Rupert Soames, 63, is to leave Serco by the end of the year. Shares dropped more than 6pc on news he was leaving

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