Birmingham pub group Mitchells & Butlers has ended its 18-month search for a permanent chief executive after raiding Midland rival Marston’s.
The Fleet Street firm has brought in Alistair Darby as its new top man, moving from his role as chief operating officer of Wolverhampton-based Marston’s.
M&B, which owns the All Bar One, Toby Carvery and O’Neill’s chains, hopes that the move will bring stability to the company, which was the subject of a boardroom battle in 2010 which saw currency trader Joe Lewis take control and Adam Fowle ousted as chief executive.
M&B, which runs more than 1,600 restaurants and pubs across the UK, has seen a host of changes in its boardroom in recent years and Jeremy Blood stepped down as interim chief executive last October.
Mr Darby will be expected to continue to deliver a strategy to increase food sales and will take over at the FTSE 250 company on October 8.
He said: “I am excited by the opportunity to lead the company and, together with the management team, to build on M&B’s strong estate, brands and operations.”
Mr Darby has more than 20 years’ experience working on well-known brands including roles with Mars Confectionery, Wolverhampton and Dudley Breweries and United Distillers. He joined Marston’s in 1997 and has worked in a number of senior operational and strategic roles, including heading up its branded and suburban managed pubs, its beer division and its tenanted and leased pub unit.
Mr Darby joined the board of Marston’s in 2003 and has served as chief operating officer since last year.
Bob Ivell will revert to the role of non-executive chairman when Mr Darby joins.
Shares in the company increased by three per cent in early trading after the announcement, and have risen by close to a quarter in the past year.
Mr Ivell said: “I am confident that we have secured the right person for the role and that drawing on his wealth of operational and brand experience, Alistair will contribute greatly to M&B’s strong performance.”
The appointment follows an extended period of turmoil at M&B, which was taken over by Mr Lewis’s vehicle Piedmont in 2010.
Marston’s chairman David Thompson said: “The board would like to thank Alistair for his valuable contribution to the business during his 15 years with the group. We wish him all the very best for the future.”