Mitchells & Butlers' Management Merry-Go-Round

LONDON -- Mitchells & Butlers (ISE: MAB.L) moved 3 pence, or 1%, higher to 281 pence in early trade this morning after confirming the appointment of Alistair Darby as the group's new chief executive. Darby will leave rival Marston's, where he currently works as chief operating officer.

Darby will take charge of Mitchells & Butlers on Oct. 8 and his appointment is the latest in a string of boardroom changes at the FTSE 250 restaurant and pub operator.

Darby will take on the executive responsibilities of Bob Ivell, who took on the role of executive chairman after Jeremy Blood quit as interim chief executive in October last year. Blood replaced Adam Fowle, who quit Mitchells during March 2011. In turn, Fowle replaced Tim Clarke, who stepped down as chief exec during 2009.

The role of chairman changed twice during 2011 as well.

The ongoing management merry-go-round at Mitchells has been the result of a fractious relationship with Joe Lewis, the Bahamas-based billionaire, who boasts a 26% stake in the business.

Lewis tabled an unsuccessful 230-pence-per-share offer for Mitchells this time last year, and says he remains an "active and engaged" shareholder.

Alistair Darby said today: "Mitchells & Butlers is a market-leading business with tremendous potential that is well advanced on a transformation program. I am excited by the opportunity to lead the company and, together with the management team, to build on M&B's strong estate, brands and operations."

If Darby can extend Mitchells' transformation program, the 279 pence shares -- currently rated at about nine times forecast 2012 earnings -- could offer some decent upside potential.

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