It's difficult to know which was the most significant appointment last week - Alan Jackson becoming executive chairman at City Centre Restaurants or Ian Payne taking command for the new owners of the Whitbread pub group?

Both will have to hit the ground running, but Jackson will have but a few days to learn the script before facing hostile fire from the direction of a sceptical City and the financial press.

The upcoming results are unlikely to change sentiment. Jackson's job is to face the barrage and give chief executive Andrew Guy some time to sort out the operational side of the business.

Jackson is experienced both in operations, with the likes of Whitbread where he was responsible Beefeater and TGI Friday, and more recently on the corporate side of business as chairman of Inn Business, Oriental and Jamies Bar. He is also a long-time member of the Greenalls, now De Vere board, so he should know a thing or too about taking flak.

Andrew Guy has looked a solitary figure since taking over as chief executive at a time of pressure on the company after a clutch of profit warnings. Jackson will provide much needed support.

Whether maximising shareholder value will ultimately mean takeover, break-up, slimming down and selective sell-offs or even a buy-out remains to be seen. Announcements on "restructuring" can be expected to trickle out over the next few months. Then we will see Jackson's real influence.

Payne's position is different in that he already has a ready made team in the existing Whitbread pubs and bars management. His experience is with Bass, where he ran the Bass Lease Co, and more laterly with Ladbroke, where he ran the casinos business.

His last job there was to oversee the sale of the last two remaining casino properties. His skill in buying and selling may well be used again soon.

Despite new owner Morgan Grenfell's arguments to the contrary, most observers expect to see some topping and tailing of the estate. Hogshead remains a candidate for sell-on.

But even if the company remains virtually intact, the pressure will then mount for more growth. Neither Nomura or Punch have sat back in the mergers and acquisitions stakes. The new company is already one of the big five players, also along with Pubmaster and Enterprise.

It can fairly be predicted that great deals will be expected of both Payne and Jackson.

Payne selling

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