Wetherspoons FD makes shock departure

by Paul Grant

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15 Oct 2010

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Keith Down (left) with chief executive John Hutson

A surprise boardroom purge at pub chain JD Wetherspoon has seen finance director Keith Down lose his job.

In a brief stock market statement, Wetherspoon’s announced that Down and chief operating officer, Paul Harbottle, would be leaving the company “in due course” and thanked both for their work over recent years.

City rumors are swirling over the reason for the move, with some analysts suggesting that the two may have been pushed following a row over the company’s plan to open pubs early in the morning for cooked breakfasts and coffee.

Down had built a reputation for cost control and stabilizing margins, according to The Guardian, whereas chairman Tim Martin’s aggressive expansion plans would have risked significantly reducing margins.

Martins has denied that the departures were connected to “ham and eggs at 7am” but it has still caused concern in the City, where shares fell 16.7p yesterday to 438p.

Meanwhile Stonegate Pub Company, which is currently without a head office executive team, has denied rumours that it had poached the two departees according to the Morning Advertiser.

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