Whitbread CEO Harrison to Quit Executive Life After 18 Years

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A Whitbread owned Costa Coffee shop

An employee selects a cup at a Costa Coffee shop, owned by Whitbread Plc., in London, on April 28, 2009.

Simon Dawson/Bloomberg News

Whitbread Chief Executive Officer Andy Harrison plans to retire from full-time executive life after 18 years in charge of public companies.

Harrison, 57, will step down by February, ending his third term as a corporate leader and giving the owner of the Costa coffee chain and Premier Inn hotels time to find a successor, Whitbread said in a statement Tuesday. He will seek new challenges, the first of which will be to take on the non-executive chairmanship of U.K. homeware retailer Dunelm Group.

Harrison will be a hard act to follow at Whitbread, where he has presided over a more than tripling in the share price since he started as CEO in 2010. The company has raised its dividend in each year of his leadership and Tuesday reported a 19 percent increase in full-year underlying pretax profit to 488 million pounds ($744 million), exceeding estimates.

Harrison was “instrumental in the creation and growth of Costa and Premier Inns, which are two of the U.K.’s favorite brands,” Stuart Gordon, an analyst at Berenberg, said in a phone interview. “There will be nervousness among the investment community in the short-term.”

The shares fell 0.9 percent to 5,390 pence at 8:34 a.m. in London. They closed at 1,461 pence on Sept. 1, 2010, the day that Harrison joined the company as CEO designate.

‘Clear Strategy’

“Whitbread has gone from strength to strength under Andy’s leadership, delivering consistent rapid and profitable growth,” Chairman Richard Baker said. “Whitbread has a clear strategy, ambitious growth milestones and the strength of leadership to successfully deliver these goals.”

Prior to joining Whitbread, Harrison spent more than four years as CEO of Easyjet Plc, which he joined from RAC Plc, a motoring and vehicle services company.

Whitbread said it’s already started a succession process and is considering both internal and external candidates.

Harrison will become chairman of Dunelm’s board from July 7, having served as a non-executive director since September. He suceeds Geoff Cooper, who is retiring.

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