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Caterer and Hotelkeeper 100: Alistair Darby, Mitchells & Butlers

06 December 2012
Caterer and Hotelkeeper 100: Alistair Darby, Mitchells & Butlers

Overall ranking: 53 (NEW ENTRY)
Pub ranking: 8 (NEW ENTRY)

Alistair Darby - Snapshot

Alistair Darby was appointed chief executive of Mitchells & Butlers, Britain's biggest managed pub and bar group, in September 2012.
M&B operates many of the best known brands in the pub sector, including Harvester, All Bar One, Toby Carvery, Vintage Inns, Brown's and O'Neills, with more than 1,600 outlets in all. In the 28 weeks to 7 April 2012, the business reported pre-tax profits down £1m to £42m on revenue growth in its retained estate of 6.3% to £969m.

Alistair Darby - Career guide

Alistair Darby has more than 20 years' experience in the pub, drinks and consumer sectors, including roles with Mars Confectionery and United Distillers. With his CV having included a stint Wolverhampton & Dudley Breweries, he rejoined the business in 1997.

The company rebranded as Marston's in 2007, and over his 15 year at the company Darby worked in a number of senior operational and strategic roles, including heading the branded and suburban managed pubs, the beer division and the tenanted and leased pub company, before becoming chief operating officer in 2011.
He was appointed chief executive of Mitchells & Butlers, Britain's biggest managed pub and bar group, in September 2012 and is also chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Beer Group Steering Committee.

When Mitchells and Butlers ended its sometimes tortuous 18-month search for a permanent chief executive in September with the appointment of Alistair Darby, some industry old hands noted that his father, Charles Darby, had once held a similar role with M&B's predecessor Bass.

One Twitter commentator went so far as to suggest that there would be a few die-hard traditionalists amongst the family brewing sector relieved that M&B was finally showing a sensible approach to succession planning.

However, the family link is pure coincidence, and Darby's appointment meets M&B's need for a chief executive equipped to run a 21st century hospitality business . Bob Ivell, the industry veteran who acted as executive chairman of M&B throughout the search for a new CEO, 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 continued strong performance."

With M&B serving around 125 million meals and 435 million drinks in outlets ranging from destination country gastropubs to town centre bars, the sheer scale is a challenge. Combined with the operational brief is the need to reassure the City that the senior management team's approach has the confidence of 25 per cent activist stakeholder Piedmont, controlled by Joe Lewis.

Darby's track record at Marston's shows he is no stranger to grasping the nettle. He oversaw the roll-out of the company's innovative Retail Agreement for tenancies, which has helped turn around struggling pubs by applying managed business disciplines, and he was instrumental in Marston's multi-site brewing strategy, which has given the business strong credibility in the booming cask ale sector.

Of his new role, Darby said to the Financial Times: "Within my 15 years at Marston's, I have worked in seven or eight distinct roles, so I am no stranger to being thrown in at the deep end. A job of this significance and scale is not without its challenges, but I will not be coming into the chief executive's role with a blueprint for change."

However, M&B is a business that is always changing and redefining its brands as the market demands. Alistair Darby's operational experience should guarantee that, for M&B's 40,000 employees and millions of customers, it's a change for the better.

Alistair Darby leaves Marston's to become Mitchells & Butlers boss >>Mitchells & Butlers sales still ahead despite weather and football >>

Mitchells and Butlers opens new training academy >>

Mitchells & Butlers website >>

Caterer and Hotelkeeper 100: Rick Bailey, Daniel Thwaites

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