The extended notice period is designed to ensure a “smooth transition” as chairman Richard Baker will lead the recruitment process. He plans to review both internal and external candidates to replace Harrison, who has served five years with the company.
Of course, the leadership loss follows on from Whitbread’s announcement on 9 April that the firm is committing £5.7m to bring 6,000 apprentices into the company.
Whitbread explained that a third of apprentices are promoted within 15 months and 95 per cent have secured management positions. With a corporate structure like that, it’s unsurprising the business is considering internal options too.
“Whitbread has gone from strength to strength under Andy’s leadership, delivering consistent rapid and profitable growth built around our strong brands and the Company’s unique culture,” said Baker.
“Over the last five years our revenues have grown by 13 per cent per annum, driving a 17 per cent per annum growth in our earnings per share, which has increased the company’s market capitalisation from £2.5bn to £9.7bn. Whitbread has a clear strategy, ambitious growth milestones and the strength of leadership to successfully deliver these goals.”
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The announcement of Harrison’s departure coincides with the hospitality company revealing its financial results. Total annual revenue reached £2.6bn, supported as the business sold 16.5m Premier Inn rooms, 47.6m restaurant meals and 464m cups of Costa coffee.
Discussing his retirement, Harrison said: “I have thoroughly enjoyed being part of the Whitbread family. It is a great company which has built some of the UK’s favourite brands by putting our people and our customers at the heart of everything we do. I would like to thank all our Whitbread winning teams for their hard work and commitment, which is central to our continuing success.
“After 18 years as chief executive of three different public companies it is time for me to plan my retirement from full time executive life and to seek new challenges. In the meantime, it is business as usual, which means that the Whitbread team and myself remain fully focused on continuing to deliver profitable growth.”