September 28, 2018 / 6:29 AM / 20 days ago

M&C Hotels chief leaves after just three months in charge

(Reuters) - The chief executive of Britain’s Millennium & Copthorne Hotels (MLC.L) (M&C) has stepped down after only three months in the top job, leaving with a payoff in excess of one million pounds.

Industry veteran Jennifer Fox, who took up the role only in June, said last month that she was reviewing the company’s “earnings profile” and developing a strategic plan. No reason was given for her abrupt departure.

The company, which operates the Millennium, Grand Millennium, Copthorne and Kingsgate hotels, said it would provide further updates in due course.

Singaporean billionaire Kwek Leng Beng is currently chairman of M&C. His firm City Developments (CTDM.SI) holds a 65.2 percent stake in M&C and unsuccessfully attempted to take full control of the company earlier this year.

Tan Kian Seng, M&C’s chief of staff, will serve as interim CEO, it said on Friday. He previously served as interim CEO from Feb. 2017 until Fox took up the role.

Fox did not immediately respond to a request for comment through LinkedIn.

“She has probably left because she wanted to make significant changes to business strategy and have proper influence over the company’s decision making,” Berenberg analyst Ned Hammond said.

“In the past, the CEOs have usually just been subordinates of the chairman and I think there may have been some tension created by the different dynamic of this relationship,” Hammond said, adding that her swift departure may result in a slowdown of the strategic changes being initiated.

Fox was appointed in April, having previously served as president of Canada-based Fairmont Hotels & Resorts and European chief operating officer at InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG.L).

After her departure, she will be paid more than a million pounds in salary, bonus, pension contributions and other benefits, M&C said here~/media/Files/M/MillenniumHotels-IR/documents/other-regulatory-announcements-docs/jennifer-fox-section-430-2b-companies-act-2006-statement.pdf.

M&C has been hit by the growing popularity of online travel agents and alternative lodging options like Airbnb, rising costs, and lower demand in Britain as Brexit concerns rise.

Beng founded M&C as a unit of Singapore’s Hong Leong Group in 1989 when it acquired its first six Asian hotels and floated the company on the London Stock Exchange in 1996.

As of Dec. 31, the company runs, owns, or invests in 136 hotels with 39,402 rooms across Asia, Europe, U.S. and Australia.

M&C’s shares have fallen nearly 4 percent since Fox started the job in June and were up 0.6 percent at 515 pence by 0925 GMT.

Reporting by Shashwat Awasthi in Bengaluru; Editing by Mark Potter/Keith Weir

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