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Ian El-Mokadem

21 September 2006

Overall ranking: 38

Contract caterer ranking: 9

Ian El-Mokadem is chief executive of Compass Group UK & Ireland.

Compass, the world's largest contract caterer, is the biggest player in the £3.865b UK market.

It owns a raft of brand names such as Eurest, Baxter & Platts, Restaurant Associates, Scholarest and Medirest.

The group, which employs in excess of 400,000 staff in more than 90 countries, reported annual sales of £12.7b in 2005 although reported profits tumbled by 53.8% to £171m and underlying profits fell by 19% to £581m.

Ian El-Mokadem - Career guide
Ian El-Mokadem joined British Gas operator Centrica in 1997, where he took on the roles of head of gas competition, head of market operations at British Gas, and director of marketing and strategy at British Gas Trading.

Before joining Compass, El-Mokadem was managing director of Onetel, the former telecoms division of Centrica which he developed from a start-up business into the UK's largest fixed-line service provider within four years.

He led the sale of Onetel to Carphone Warehouse in December 2005 and took up his current position at Compass in May 2006.

Ian El-Mokadem - What we think
Ian El-Mokadem is one of the new brooms brought in to sweep Compass back into shape, along with new chairman Sir Roy Gardner and chief executive Richard Cousins.

El-Mokadem's appointment brings some much-needed stability to the group's UK and Ireland region. He is the fifth person to occupy the seat since his predecessor, Don Davenport, retired in July 2005.

Davenport's replacement, Peter Harris, was sacked four months into the job over a UN corruption scandal involving his former division Eurest Support Services (ESS). Gary Green filled in for a while but soon returned to his role as chief executive of the Americas. Trevor Briggs, former executive director for commercial business, then served as interim chief executive from January 2006.

The UK and Ireland account for nearly 18% of group turnover, down from 23% in 2005. This shrinkage came in part from the transfer of Eurest Support Service accounts to other parts of the world (wiping £18m off the UK's 2005 profits) and to the £1.82b sale of most of the Select Service Partners travel concessions and retail business in 2006. This operated predominantly in the UK and Continental Europe and included 43 Motorway Service Areas.

A former colleague of new chairman Sir Roy Gardner from his days at Centrica, El-Mokadem's experience and success in the highly-competitive telecoms market will serve him well in his new role.

The UK and Ireland division has taken a bit of a battering of late, with operating profits slumping by 18% (from £360m to £294m) in 2004 and by 30% in 2005 to £205m. However, the interims to March 2006 brought a much smaller fall, of 8%, from £61m to £56m and observers hope to see a recovery by the end of 2007.

Compass has taken some steps to address the barrage of criticism it has faced in the fast few years over its aggressive and turnover-led growth strategy. By March 2006, Compass had exited around 50% of its lower-margin contracts although questions about "invisible earnings" - the practice of not passing on substantial discounts squeezed out of suppliers - continue to niggle.

El-Mokadem is already making his mark on the business. Four months into the job, he announced a major restructure that will see 200 management and several executive jobs slashed by the end of November 2006 to eliminate duplication.

This streamlining approach will also be applied to the group's diverse stable of brands and he is planning a cull after seeking feedback from customers.

"We want to talk to clients in particular, as they have grown up with the names," he told Caterer. "In some sectors, there is more of a focus on competitive tendering and I'm not sure how much the brand name really matters."

The re-branding exercise will result in Compass appointing its first full-time marketing director.

El-Mokadem also plans to set up a dedicated fine-dining division with its own managing director.

El-Mokadem has a BSc in Economics and Statistics from London University and an MBA from INSEAD in France.

Ian El-Mokadem - Further information

Compass profile on CatererSearch

Compass official website

Compass profile on Google

Read more about the CatererSearch 100, the list of the most influential people here

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