September 21, 2017 / 6:28 AM / a year ago

Compass Group's long-time CEO Richard Cousins to step down

(Reuters) - Compass Group Plc (CPG.L), the world’s biggest catering firm, said long-time chief executive Richard Cousins would step down effective March 31 and would be succeeded by Dominic Blakemore, currently chief operating officer for Europe.

Compass shares fell 2.7 percent to a more than two and a half month low and was among the top losers on the UK bluechip index .FTSE.

“His strong leadership style and strategic focus has fundamentally crafted the business into a global leader and driven excellent total shareholder returns,” Credit Suisse analysts said, calling his tenure “nothing short of exceptional”.

Under Cousins, who took charge in 2006, revenue has nearly doubled, while shares have jumped more than sixfold.

Cousins took over the top job from Michael Bailey after a string of profit warnings by the company and a lawsuit alleging that the company was involved in rigging bids for U.N. procurement contracts.

The Credit Suisse analysts said that they expect it to be business as usual, while Panmure Gordon & Co analysts called Blakemore “a natural successor.”

Compass, which provides meals for office workers, members of the armed forces and school children across the world, reported a 3.9 percent rise in quarterly revenue in July led by strong growth in the United States.

Compass, which serves around 5 billion meals each year in more than 50 countries, said Blakemore would become deputy chief executive on Oct. 1 and take over the top position on April 1. He joined the company in 2012 as its chief financial officer.

Cousins, 58, will retire from the group on Sept. 30, 2018.

Reporting by Arathy S Nair in Bengaluru; editing by Amrutha Gayathri and Jason Neely

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