GREGGS is taking on a retail expert and current chief executive of pubs group Punch Taverns as its new boss to replace the popular and high-profile Ken McMeikan after nearly five years in the job.
Roger Whiteside will take over the reins as chief executive of the Newcastle bakery chain on February 4. After a handover period, McMeikan will leave the business on March 8 for his new job as chief executive of catering company Brakes.
Whiteside, who has been a Greggs non-executive director since 2008, began his career at Marks & Spencer where he spent 20 years and became head of its food business.
He was part of the team which founded Ocado, the home delivery groceries wing of Waitrose, where he served as managing director from 2000-04.
And he led the turnaround of off- licence chain Thresher as its chief executive from 2004 -07 before joining Punch Taverns.
Greggs chairman Derek Netherton said: “We are delighted to announce the appointment of Roger as chief executive.
“Not only has he got considerable management experience in retailing and food but also, as a non-executive director of Greggs during a period of significant change, he has been involved in developing the strategy.
“He is very well respected within the company and his appointment will enable a smooth transition in what is still a challenging consumer environment.”
Analysts N+Singer said that Greggs had moved swiftly following McMeikan’s announcement last month.
N+Singer said: “It is worth noting that he (Roger Whiteside) has been a non-exec at Greggs since 2008 and thus is very familiar with the business.
“Having had senior roles within Ocado, M&S and Thresher, his consumer-facing credentials will prove invaluable in helping revive Greggs’ fortunes. To our mind the new CEO appointment seems a solid hire.”
He is moving from one of the UK’s largest leased pub companies, which has a portfolio of around 4,500 pubs nationwide, for a baker with more than 1,670 retail outlets nationwide.
Whiteside said: “I joined the Greggs board in 2008 and I have been impressed with the team, which I have got to know well.
“I look forward to working with them to further develop our strategy. Greggs is a great business with an iconic brand that has strengthened considerably over the past few years. I believe we have a great future.”
Punch Taverns chairman Stephen Billingham wished Whiteside every success in his role at Greggs.
He said: “I would like to thank Roger for his significant contribution to the group over the last four years.
“Roger and the board have set out a clear operational plan to return the core estate to growth and maximise value from our non-core assets.” McMeikan surprised the City when he announced his resignation in December.
It is understood he took the decision to relocate to Kent-based Brakes because his family are based in London and he was finding the travelling difficult. He has overseen the company during a period of considerable growth and challenges including the proposed pasty tax, which was turned down after a public outcry and campaign headed by Greggs.
Derek Netheron said: “I would like to take this opportunity to thank Ken for his leadership since joining Greggs in 2008.
“Despite the double-dip recession, the company has grown its core estate significantly, opening record numbers of new shops in a variety of locations and formats, and entering new channels to market through franchising and wholesaling.
“He has also considerably enhanced Greggs’s commitment to putting the community at the heart of the business. Ken will leave us with our very best wishes for his continued success in the future.”