Domino’s Pizza Group is in advanced talks to replace its chief executive amid unrest among its British franchisees and a disappointing recent share price performance.
Sky News has learnt that Andrew Rennie, the chief executive for Europe at Domino’s Pizza Enterprises, has been identified as the leading candidate to take over from David Wild at the helm of the London-listed company.
Sources said that Mr Rennie’s appointment was not yet guaranteed but added that it could be finalised within the next few weeks.
Mr Wild’s departure has been on the cards since it emerged in March that Domino’s Pizza Group was undertaking detailed succession planning for its three top board members.
The extension of chairman Stephen Hemsley’s long tenure for a further year increased the likelihood that Mr Wild – who has clashed with shareholders and franchisees – would step down first.
Mr Rennie is himself a former Domino’s franchisee who purchased his first store in 1994 in the Australian city of Darwin.
According to the company’s website, it became the leading Domino’s outlet in the country within 18 months, prompting Mr Rennie to expand his franchise to 13 stores before merging them with Domino’s in 2004.
He has held a number of executive roles, including as chief operating officer in Australia, and has been European CEO – encompassing Belgium, France, Germany and the Netherlands – since 2013.
People close to Domino’s Pizza Group, which has seen its shares slump by 25% during the last 12 months, said it would be an advantage to have as Mr Wild’s successor someone who had an understanding of the pizza delivery brand’s business and franchise model.
The London-listed company also incorporates Domino’s operations in Iceland, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland.
It said last month that sales in the international businesses had been disappointing but its UK operations – which account for the vast majority of the company’s sales – were performing robustly.
Mr Wild, who turns 65 next year, has run Domino’s since 2014.
He was previously chief executive of Halfords.
Domino’s has also begun a search to replace Helen Keays, who has served on the board for nearly eight years, including the last three as senior independent director.
That process may be complicated by the fact that Ms Keays is the only woman on a nine-strong board at a time when listed companies are expected to ensure that a third of directors are female by next year.
The company has exchanged increasingly fractious words with a newly established franchisees’ association.
Last month, The Sunday Times said that franchisees were conducting an audit of how the company spent its advertising budget.
It has also reported that relations between the company and the Domino’s Franchisee Association had deteriorated to such an extent that its members were boycotting opening new stores during the first half of 2019.
The row has thrown a spotlight on corporate governance at Domino’s, sparking concerns among shareholders about the tenure of Mr Hemsley, who joined the board as finance director in 1998.
Recently revised guidelines state that chairs are no longer deemed independent after a total of nine years on the board, meaning the extension to his term is likely to attract votes against him at Domino’s next annual meeting, one investor said.
In remarks published in the annual report, Mr Hemsley said: “We note that the provisions of the most recent version of the Corporate Governance Code state that the chair of the board should not remain in post for more than nine years.
“Whilst we acknowledge the Code’s provisions, the timing and sequencing of these board changes must be appropriate for the business, and the Committee is currently formulating its plans.”
Domino’s share price fall has left it with a market value of about £1.14bn.
A Domino’s spokesman declined to comment.