Industrial turnaround veteran Lovell to help rebuild Interserve

July 11, 2019

An industrial turnaround veteran who was parachuted into Carillion just weeks before its collapse is to take on another big outsourcing job as the next chairman of Interserve Group.

Sky News has learnt that Alan Lovell, who has led numerous companies during the last 30 years, will be named as Interserve's chairman on Friday.

The arrival of Mr Lovell will provide a major boost to the consortium of investors which took control of the outsourcing group after a brief skirmish with administration earlier this year.

Interserve is one of Britain's biggest privately owned employers, with a global workforce of about 68,000 people and revenues of nearly £3bn.

It ranks among the government's most important contractors, maintaining British Army bases around the world and cleaning the London Underground network.

Sources close to Interserve said Mr Lovell was likely to take the reins next week and work with chief executive Debbie White on implementing the strategy drawn up since the company's rescue.

Mr Lovell will take over from Glyn Barker, who became chairman three years ago, when Interserve was still a substantial publicly listed company.

The takeover by Interserve's lenders followed a vigorous battle - opposed by a major investor - to persuade shareholders to back a rescue deal that would have averted its collapse into insolvency.

After a narrow vote in March, however, the company was bought by its lenders through a pre-pack administration.

The brush with insolvency came just 14 months after the collapse of Carillion, raising fresh questions about the outsourcing sector's ability to finance itself.

In Mr Lovell, Interserve's new shareholders have hired a veteran of UK industry.

He was chief executive of the ‎construction companies Jarvis, Costain and Conder Group, as well as waste-to-energy businesses Tamar Energy and Infinis and the consumer goods company Dunlop Slazenger.

Since stepping down as an executive, he has chaired and held directorships at many companies, including his current role as chairman of Safestyle and Flowgroup.

Mr Lovell was also appointed to chair the restructuring committee of Carillion as it sought to assemble a rescue package during its final ten weeks of trading.

The effort ultimately proved unsuccessful.

Interserve's new owners have already received several tentative expressions of interest for parts of its business, including its support services division, which accounts for the bulk of the group's 40,000-strong UK workforce.

The support services business carries out facilities management work for the government and numerous private sector clients in the UK and the Middle East.

People close to Interserve's new shareholders, which include Royal Bank of Scotland and the hedge fund Davidson Kempner, have suggested that they are happy to keep the group intact for the foreseeable future.

Its construction arm is now focusing on a revised strategy, while RMD Kwikform, its equipment division, also plans to appoint a separate chairman, reflecting the differing priorities of Interserve's various businesses.

The appointments may also pave the way for the group's eventual break-up.

Mr Barker's departure from Interserve means he joins its finance chief, Mark Whiteling, in leaving after the restructuring.

Interserve declined to comment.

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