Mark Angela has left his role as chief executive of Pizza Express, the near 400-strong Gondola-owned chain. According to industry sources, Angela is believed to have left the company over a disagreement about the current direction of the group. However, Gondola chief executive Harvey Smyth told The Times that Angela had left by mutual agreement. He said: “Mark’s done a fantastic job. We’re entering a new phase of growth and we decided, between Mark and I, that it was time for a change.” Angela, the former managing director of Greene King’s managed pub division, was appointed chief executive of Pizza Express in September 2007. He left Greene King in April that year after the company decided to split its managed division in two to oversee the development of the then 330-strong pizza chain. Under Angela the group launched a next generation format of Pizza Express, which it is currently rolling out across its estate, with six sites already converted. Smyth told the newspaper that the group planned to up the pace of the rollout to about six a month. However, the chain has also become synonymous with discounting, which many industry commentators believe could harm its long-term trading performance. Smyth said at the time that Angela’s appointment would mean that he himself could focus on the overall development and growth of the chain’s parent company. The departure of Angela comes as Gondola has reportedly appointed BNP Paribas, the European banking and financial group, to look at its options for refinancing its £550m debt, which has sparked speculation that it could lead to a sale of the group or some of its brands. The company currently operates c.655 sites under the Ask, Zizzi, Pizza Express and Byron formats. Smyth confirmed to The Times that “initial soundings” with banks had started regarding a refinancing of its debt, which expires in January 2013 but denied the move could signal a sale of one or more of its brands. He also confirmed that the company was doing some early investigation into expanding Pizza Express into India. In May, M&C Report revealed that the company had hired Jasper Reid, a former managing director at Macquarie Bank, to oversee its expansion into the country.