Monday 14 October 2019

Royal Mail delivers British Airways veteran as new chairman

Keith Williams will replace Les Owen on May 22.

Royal Mail needs to adapt quickly, its new chairman says (PA)
Royal Mail needs to adapt quickly, its new chairman says (PA)

By Alys Key, Press Association City Reporter

Royal Mail has appointed former British Airways boss Keith Williams to be its new permanent chairman as the group grapples with the fast-changing delivery market.

Mr Williams, who is currently deputy chairman of the group, will replace Les Owen on May 22, making him the third person to hold the position in the space of a year.

Mr Owen took on the role on a limited-term basis in September when former chairman Peter Long stepped down just months after shareholders revolted over the new chief executive’s bumper pay packet.

Senior independent director Orna Ni-Chionna said Mr Owen’s interim leadership had helped the group address “significant challenges”.

Royal Mail has many strengths, including great brands and great people, which form a platform for future success. The fast-moving delivery market means that we need to keep changing, and at greater pace Keith Williams

“As chairman since September, he has provided strong leadership and steady support to the board as we have sought to address a number of very significant challenges,” she said.

“We are grateful to him for stepping up into the chairman’s role as we sought to find a long-term appointee.”

The appointment of a new chair comes amid another year of declining letter mailings for the postal service.

In January, it said letter volumes are set to fall by 7% to 8% over the full year and will be worse than forecast for 2019-20, with Brexit impacting business confidence adding to the ongoing trend for “e-substitution”.

Earlier in his career, Mr Williams spent 18 years at British Airways, where he was at various times CFO, CEO and executive chairman.

Mr Williams said: “Royal Mail has many strengths, including great brands and great people, which form a platform for future success. The fast-moving delivery market means that we need to keep changing, and at greater pace.

“I look forward to working with Rico Back, our group CEO, and the senior management team as we address the significant challenges facing our business.”

Additional board members are set to be appointed in the coming months.

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