The Men and Women Who Run Whitbread

LONDON -- Management can make all the difference to a company's success and thus its share price.

The best companies are those run by talented and experienced leaders with strong vested interests in the success of the business, held in check by a board with sound financial and business acumen. Some of the worst investments to hold are those run by executives collecting fat rewards as the underlying business goes to pot.

In this series, I'm assessing the boardrooms of companies within the FTSE 100. I hope to separate the management teams that are worth following from those that are not. Today I am looking at Whitbread  (LSE: WTB  ) , the hotel, coffee shop, and restaurant chain.

Here are the key directors:

Director

Position

Anthony Habgood

(non-exec) Chairman

Andy Harrison

Chief Executive

Nicholas Cadbury

Finance Director

Patrick Dempsey

Managing Director, hotels

Christopher Rogers

Managing Director, Costa

Louise Smalley

HR Director

Whitbread has a large team of executive directors, with two divisional heads in addition to two functional ones.

Chairman Anthony Habgood has been in the seat since 2005. He's also chairman of FTSE 100 firm Reed Elsevier. He started his career as a management consultant with Boston Consulting Group and was credited with turning around distribution group Bunzl as its CEO and executive chairman between 1991 and 2005.

Filling seats
After five years as CEO of budget airline Easyjet, Andy Harrison was appointed CEO in September 2010. At the time the chairman commented on the similarities in filling budget airline seats and budget hotel rooms, and Harrison was seen as the man to take Whitbread into overseas markets. Prior to his time at Easyjet, he was CEO of RAC for nine years, and worked for textile company Courtaulds.

Whitbread's shares have nearly doubled during Harrison's two-and-a-half-year tenure, against a 22% rise for the FTSE.

Nicholas Cadbury replaced Christopher Rogers as FD after the latter moved to be managing director of Costa coffee. Cadbury was poached from parts distributor Premier Farnell after just 12 months, joining Whitbread in November last year. He qualified as a chartered accountant with PricewaterhouseCoopers and had previously been finance director of Dixons.

Demerger
Rogers' sideways move to run Costa was widely interpreted as preparation for demerging the coffee chain. Though that speculation has been dismissed by the company, many investors still believe it to be on the cards. Also a PwC accountant by training, Rogers was finance director of Kingfisher and Woolworths before joining Whitbread in 2005.

Hotel chief Patrick Dempsey joined Whitbread in 2004 after 20 years with Forte hotels. Last year he was awarded an OBE for services to the industry.

It's unusual to see an HR director on the board these days, and perhaps a cliche that it's a woman. Louise Smalley was promoted to the board last September, having been HR director since 2007 and with Whitbread for 13 years.

Whitbread's seven non-execs have a strong bias toward consumer goods industries, and include a former finance director. I find it reassuring to have someone with that mind-set among the non-execs.

I analyze management teams from five different angles to help work out a verdict. Here's my assessment:

1. Reputation. Management CVs and track record.

Very good.

Score 4/5

2. Performance. Success at the company.

Very good.

Score 4/5

3. Board Composition. Skills, experience, balance

Logical and effective, though chairman has two FTSE posts.

Score 4/5

4. Remuneration. Fairness of pay, link to performance.

Uncontroversial.

Score 3/5

5. Directors' Holdings, compared to their pay.

Large.

Score 4/5

Overall, Whitbread scores 19 out of 25, a good result. The company's executives look competent and have performed well.

I've collated all my FTSE 100 boardroom verdicts on this summary page.

Buffett's favorite FTSE share
Let me finish by adding that legendary investor Warren Buffett has always looked for impressive management teams when pinpointing which shares to buy. His latest acquisition, Heinz, has long had a reputation for strong management. So I think it's important to tell you about the FTSE 100 company in which the billionaire stock-picker has a substantial stake.

A special free report from The Motley Fool -- "The One U.K. Share Warren Buffett Loves" -- explains Buffett's purchase and investing logic in full.

And Buffett, don't forget, rarely invests outside his native United States, which to my mind makes this British blue chip -- and its management -- all the more attractive. So why not download the report today? It's totally free and comes with no further obligation.

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