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Rising stock: National Express and Primark FDs

Jez Maiden

How much longer will Jez Maiden remain as FD of National
Express? After the disastrous half-year results that trailed the news it was
having the East Coast franchise taken out of its hands, with the potential for
the group to be bought up and asset-stripped, this seasoned and ambitious FD can
really only go two ways: replacing departed CEO Richard Bowker, or shipping out
to less fractious pastures.

Despite NatEx’s poor financial results, insiders have a lot of respect for
Maiden, who has driven down debt and demonstrated a “very capable grasp of remit
in adviser meetings and a strong feel for where the company is headed” inside
his nine-month tenure. Having found time to run finance at British Vita and
Hickson, and serve as director of finance at Brittania Building Society in the
past decade ­ latterly leading the break-up of Northern Foods one year after
joining ­ Maiden may prove a handy man for the top job at NatEx if an
acquisition goes ahead.

One person close to Maiden told Financial Director: “NatEx was a very
different place when he was headhunted there ­ but it is now a recovery play. He
may think, ‘Why join a group with a lot of uncertainty around it’? And if the
breakup goes ahead, he won’t have a position. But I can’t see him leaving the
business.”
Read about Maiden’s appointment at NatEx
here.

Associated British Foods refuses to confirm or deny rumours
it is looking to replace Primark CEO, chairman and founder Arthur Ryan and that
FD Paddy Prior may leave his role as a result of a wider shuffle to refresh the
board at the booming fashion retailer.

But a source close to ABF told Financial Director that headhunters have been
drafted in to find “the next FD of Marks & Spencer” to succeed Prior. Our
source says ABF wants someone who can import strong FTSE-350 retail experience
and is willing to relocate to Primark’s Dublin HQ ­ preferably by this autumn,
in time for ABF’s September year-end. Press reports claim Primark’s chief
operating officer Paul Marchant will succeed Ryan as chief executive, but our
source said that Prior “won’t be shunted out” when a new FD is appointed ­ with
his level of knowledge and experience it is likely he will be found another role
covering at least a transition period, perhaps replacing Ryan in his role as
Primark’s chairman.
Click
here

for all our FD careers coverage, discussion and advice.

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