The new man in charge of the former Whitbread pubs empre has begun work even though the deal is not yet ratified.

Ian Payne, a former Bass senior executive and most recently in charge of Ladbrokes casinos, started work on Monday after the £1.625bn deal that saw the 3,000 pubs sold to Morgan Grenfell private Equity, However, a Whitbread shareholders' meeting has not yet been held to give the transaction the seal of approval.

Most of the existing Whitbread Pubs & Bars team is expected to stay on. Stewart Miller, managing director of Pubs & Bars, will leave to run Whitbread's David lloyd leisure wing on the changeover.

The pubs group Punch, which was one of the losers in the attempt to buy the Whitbread pubs, is still apparently considering launching a legal challenge because Bankers Trust, now a stablemate with Morgan Grenfell in Deutsche Bank, signed a non-compete clause when it helped Punch two years ago.