* Kingfisher CFO Karen Witts to become finance chief at Compass
* Witts’ appointment latest management change since Cousins’ death (Adds details on appointment, CEO comments, context on Kingfisher)
By Justin George Varghese
Oct 11 (Reuters) - Britain’s Compass Group Plc appointed Kingfisher’s Karen Witts as its chief financial officer on Thursday, the latest in a series of management changes at the world’s biggest catering firm following the sudden death of its CEO.
The hiring of Witt follows on the heels of Dominic Blakemore’s appointment as chief executive officer in January after long-time CEO Richard Cousins died in a seaplane crash on New Year’s eve.
Witts will succeed Johnny Thomson, whose decision to step down as finance chief by the end of this year was announced in July.
Cousins, who had been due to retire this year, was seen as the architect of Compass’s success over the last decade and analysts and investors have been watching the company’s performance closely under Blakemore for signs of how business will now pan out.
The company, which serves over 5.5 billion meals a year in more than 50 countries and is the world’s biggest catering firm by revenue, has recently been cutting costs as it struggles to improve stagnant income and declining margins.
Witts has been chief financial officer at Kingfisher, one of Europe’s biggest home improvement retailers, since 2012. Prior to that she held senior finance positions at Vodafone Group and BT and is also a non-executive director at Imperial Brands.
“Her financial and operational expertise will be highly complementary to our team and she brings with her a wealth of experience in retail and technology,” Blakemore said in a statement issued by Compass.
Kingfisher confirmed Witts’ resignation in a separate statement, adding that she will remain in her current position while the company searches for a replacement.
Witts’ starting date at Compass has yet to be agreed. Palmer Brown, currently corporate investment and risk chief at Compass’s North American division, will serve as interim CFO from Dec. 31 until Witts takes up her role, Compass said. (Reporting by Justin George Varghese in Bengaluru; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle and Susan Fenton)