Richard Cousins

21 September 2006
Richard Cousins

Overall ranking: 9 (new entrant)

Foodservice ranking: 1 (new entrant)

Richard Cousins is the group chief executive of the Compass Group and is responsible for the day-to-day running of the world's largest contract caterer.

Compass operates across a diverse range of sectors that include business and industry; fine dining, education, healthcare, vending, sports and leisure, along with military, remote and offshore sites.

It owns a raft of brand names such as Eurest, Baxter & Platts, Restaurant Associates, Roux Fine Dining, Scholarest and Chartwells (for school meals) and Medirest (for hospitals and care homes).

The group, which employs in excess of 400,000 staff in more than 98 countries, reported annual sales of £12.7b although reported profits tumbled by 53.8% to £171m and underlying profits fell by 19% to £581m in 2006.

Richard Cousins - Career guide
Richard Cousins, a graduate of Sheffield and Lancaster Universities, started his career in the group operational department of Cadbury Schweppes where he was involved in market research, manufacturing planning and investment appraisal.

He joined BTR in 1984, initially in operational research, and became corporate planning manager for its subsidiary, Newey and Eyre, a distributor of electrical products and installation materials.

In 1990 he took a strategic planning position with BPB (the world's leading plasterboard and plaster manufacturer). Ensuing roles included group financial controller, managing director of packaging, president of its Canadian business, and finally chief executive in 2000.

Cousins propelled BPB into the FSTE 100, almost quadrupling its market capitalisation from £1b-plus to almost £4b.He famously forced French company Saint-Gobain to increase its takeover bid from 675p to 775p a share, finally selling BPB for £3.9m in December 2005.

Cousins joined Compass as group chief executive in May 2006.

Richard Cousins - What we think
According to the annual British Hospitality Association report, 2005 was the toughest year in a decade for the UK contract catering market (which declined by 0.8% to £3.865b) - and it was tougher for market-leader Compass than for most.
Richard Cousin's predecessor Mike Bailey was practically hounded out of office by shareholders after delivering the group's third profit warning in a year in October 2005. The company's fall from grace was reflected in the peer-reviewed Britain's Most Admired Companies listing of December 2005, when it plunged from 20th to 171st position in the pan-industry top 220.

Cousins is one of many new brooms that have been drafted in to steer the catering supertanker on course, along with new chairman Sir Roy Gardner and UK and Ireland boss Ian El-Mokadem.

A revolving door in the boardroom and plunging profits have only been a small part of the woes to hit Compass over the past two years. A scandal over alleged procurement irregularities in African food and water contracts with the United Nations has sparked internal, court cases in the USA and the sacking of new UK and Ireland boss Peter Harris last year.

Closer to home, the group (in common with many large caterers) has received an ear-bashing from Jamie Oliver over the quality of school meals and has been forced to review its strategy by shunning contracts where the cost of ingredients per meal falls below 55p.

Adverse publicity over invisible earnings - the widespread practice of keeping clients in the dark over huge discounts squeezed out of hard-pressed suppliers - will require a degree of bridge-building at both ends of the supply chain.

Cousins' role will be to placate the City and shareholders by reworking a business model that has traditionally taken an acquisition and turnover-based route at the expense of cash flow and return-on-investment. In time, he will also have to address the group's pension deficit, estimated at £420m.

Prior to his arrival, Compass has responded to investors demands for a return to its core contract catering roots by disposing of its travel concessions business and motorway services areas.

Cousins and his new colleagues have now announced a major restructuring programme that will help streamline the operation further. It will involve the redundancy of 200 managers to strip out duplication and a wide-ranging review of the group's confusing stable of brands.

Richard Cousins - Further information

Compass Group official website

Compass Group profile on CatererSearch

Compass Group on Wikipedia

Compass Group on Wikipedia

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

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