The chairman and majority shareholder of Millennium & Copthorne Hotels (M&C) has rejected suggestions that he exerts undue influence on the group after the loss of its fifth chief executive since flotation in 1996.
Kwek Leng Beng, who speaks for 53 per cent of the shares, said yesterday that the departure of Peter Papadimitropoulos “by mutual consent” after just six months was because of “different styles of management” rather than any wish on his part to control the hotel group.
Some analysts have accused Mr Kwek of hiring puppet chief executives to rubber-stamp his own strategy. Nigel Parson, of Evolution Securities, said: “We assume that [Mr Papadimitropoulos] made the mistake of believing he had a real job. The powerbase remains firmly with Kwek Leng Beng.”
However, Mr Kwek firmly rejected the suggestion. He said: “It’s a common misconception that a CEO has no power. I more than comply with corporate governance. If I was to run the company as a private company, I could improve it by 35 per cent, but I have to respect the views of my independent directors, the nominations committee and the remuneration committee. I’m just one person on those committees.”
He added: “This is not surprising. People change CEO more often these days. We are very pragmatic. We’re going to change the CEO if they don’t share the same view as us.”
Mr Kwek said that the exit was unrelated to trading, which had been strong. In the half-year to June 30, M&C’s underlying pretax profits rose almost 50 per cent to £53.5 million, on revenue up 8.9 per cent at £322.4 million. Revenue per available room rose by 8.9 per cent in the first half.
Mr Kwek said that he still hopes to win planning consent for a 70-storey tower with luxury apartments at the Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles.