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Lakehouse dismisses potential conflicts of interest in appointing Mears' Bob Holt as chairman

Lakehouse has appointed Bob Holt as its executive chairman to help turn around the business following months of boardroom turmoil.

Mr Holt is also non-executive chairman of housing maintenance and care services firm Mears, among other business roles.

A Lakehouse statement said the board was satisfied Mr Holt “will be able to dedicate the time and resources required to fulfilling this role fully”, whilst adding that conflicts of interest would be “minimal as a consequence of there being limited overlap between the nature of the operations of Mears and the other companies’ operations and the operations of [Lakehouse]”.

The board said Mr Holt’s “knowledge, considerable experience of and reputation in the sector[…] and his track record of turning around underperforming companies will be invaluable to the group going forward”.

Mr Holt said: “The board is committed to return significant shareholder value and I look forward to working with the team to deliver that strategy.”

Shareholder approval will be sought for his appointment “considering the upheaval and changes to the composition of the board over recent months”, the board said. It added that Mr Holt would benefit from a proposed “revised remuneration policy”.

He will be paid £225,000 a year: including an annual salary of £75,000; and £150,000 a year for consultancy services.

Ric Piper will step down as non-executive chairman but continue as a non-executive director until 30 November for a handover period with Mr Holt.

Lakehouse has been through a challenging time recently including a boardroom coup involving founder Steve Rawlings.

In May the construction and support services firm issued a second profit warning as problem contracts saw a pre-tax loss of £1.8m in its interim results for the six months to 31 March.

A profit warning had previously been issued in February, which was followed by the shock departure of chief executive Sean Birrane in March.

This led Lakehouse founder Steve Rawlings to call for a boardroom shake-up alongside other major shareholders. Mr Rawlings accused the board of taking “their eye off the ball” and said it had acquired “too many [companies], too quickly”.

Lakehouse has bought 10 businesses over the last six years, with five added in 2015 alone, the most recent being lift installation and repair specialist Precision Lift Services for £5.5m in December 2015.

Stuart Black, previously the company’s chairman, stepped into the chief executive role following Mr Birrane’s departure and opposed Mr Rawlings’ calls for a boardroom shake-up.

However, in April a deal was struck that saw Mr Rawlings return to the board as non-executive director. Mr Black resigned days after the agreement was reached.

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