Loss of executive Doyle new blow for Tiger

By Time of article published Mar 27, 2008

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Cape Town - Tiger Brands is losing its respected chief financial officer, Noel Doyle, who steered the controversy-ridden company through the bread price-fixing scandal after the departure of chief executive Nick Dennis.

Chairman Lex van Vught said yesterday Doyle's decision to leave was "regretted in that he made a significant contribution to the company".

He will be replaced by the company's consumer brands division financial executive, Michael Fleming.

Doyle would become chief executive of a "substantial" but little known group that owned companies in the motor trade. He did not name the company but said his job would be to "corporatise" the growing group which was owned by three "private individuals".

He had been considering leaving Tiger Brands for a year and said he was not leaving because of the bread scandal.

Doyle had no designs on the top job after Dennis resigned in December. In February outsider Peter Matlare was appointed chief executive and will start the job next month.

Doyle would have preferred to have remained longer at Tiger Brands "rather than walk away in the middle of a crisis" but he could not keep the motor group owners waiting any longer.

John Thompson, an analyst at Investec Asset Management, said the departure of highly valued Doyle would add another level of investor uncertainty at the consumer brands firm.

Earlier this year, the competition commission alleged that Adcock Ingram Critical Care, a unit in the company's wholly owned pharmaceutical subsidiary Adcock Ingram, was involved in collusion in the supply of hospital products.

The case is yet to be resolved. This follows last year's R98.8 million fine for anti-competitive practices over the bread price-fixing scandal.

Thompson said Doyle's "worth to Tiger Brands cannot be underestimated and he will be sorely missed". After the resignation of Dennis in the wake of the bread scandal, Doyle "was the de facto leader picking up the reins from Dennis and had kept the group together".

Thompson believed Doyle had left "in part due to the upheaval at the company but was known to have been thinking about leaving the group a number of months previously".

In December Doyle withdrew from running for the position of chief executive. In the end, the board preferred an outsider as opposed to someone from its management team, which had been tainted by the price-fixing case.

Tiger Brands has maintained that none of its executives had knowledge of the bread collusion. In February the company appointed Matlare, former Vodacom chief strategy and business development officer, as chief executive.

Michael Canterbury, an equity analyst at Sanlam Investment Management, said Doyle had been more than a traditional chief financial officer.

"He did more than just prepare financial statements as he had a very good operational understanding of the company and handled investor relations well," said Canterbury.

He said Doyle was leaving at a challenging time for the company and that the loss was unfortunate after the departure of experienced executives such as Dennis, Roy Smithers and Mike Norris in recent years.

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