Compass Group, the FTSE 100 catering giant, will this week name a former boss of the plumbing and heating goods supplier Wolseley as its next chairman.
Sky News has learnt that Compass could announce as early as Tuesday morning that Ian Meakins is to take over from Paul Walsh later this year.
Mr Meakins’ appointment will conclude an eight-month search for Mr Walsh’s successor which has been dominated by the company’s attempts to navigate through the coronavirus pandemic.
In May, it raised £2bn from shareholders through an equity placing – the largest deal of its kind to date.
The capital, part of which was used to repay about £840m of Compass’s debts, has left the company with a balance sheet that analysts regard as being the strongest in its industry.
Compass provides catering services to clients in sectors such as healthcare, defence and education.
Its sports and leisure business, which includes managing catering operations at the annual Wimbledon tennis championships and Cheltenham racing festival, has been badly disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The company has a market value of more than £21bn and employs hundreds of thousands of people, making it one of Britain’s largest employers.
It has a global market share of approximately 10%.
In selecting Mr Meakins as its next chairman, Compass is expected to be applauded for choosing an industrial heavyweight who improved the performance of Wolseley – which was renamed Ferguson several years ago.
Mr Meakins now chairs Rexel, a French provider of efficient energy products.
The departure of Mr Walsh will leave him with more time to devote to his other business interests, which include the chairmanship of McLaren Group, owner of the eponymous Formula One team.
After stepping down as chief executive of the FTSE-100 drinks producer Diageo in 2013, Mr Walsh built a portfolio of directorships, serving on the boards of companies including Centrica and Unilever.
He now also chairs Chime Communications, the marketing services group, and is a board member of two of the biggest companies in the US: FedEx, the parcel delivery group, and the fast-food giant McDonald’s.
Among his toughest challenges as chairman of Compass was dealing with the tragic death of Richard Cousins, the company’s chief executive, in an aeroplane crash in Australia in 2017.
After appointing Dominic Blakemore as Mr Cousins’ successor, Compass performed strongly, although the coronavirus pandemic has arrested its previously strong share price performance.
Compass declined to comment on Mr Meakins’ appointment.