Richard Cousins

Richard Cousins

Dominic Blakemore’s appointment as chief executive of catering giant Compass Group has been brought forward following the death of Richard Cousins in a tragic accident on New Year’s Eve in Australia.

Cousins, 58, who was poised to retire from the £22.9bn revenue business, was killed alongside five others - his fiancée Emma Bowden, 48, her daughter Heather, 11, his sons William, 25, and Edward, 23 and pilot Gareth Morgan, when the seaplane in which they were flying plunged into Hawkesbury River on their way back to Sydney from a waterfront restaurant.

Cousins joined Compass as chief executive in 2006 from plasterboard group BPB, where he was chief executive. He began his working life at Cadbury Schweppes in various roles.

He resigned as a non-executive director of Tesco last year in protest at the retailer’s proposed £3.7bn takeover of Booker.

Compass Group chairman Paul Walsh said: “We are deeply shocked and saddened by this terrible news. The thoughts of everyone at Compass are with Richard’s family and friends, and we extend our deepest sympathies to them.

Walsh said it had been a great privilege to know Richard personally and to work with him for the past few years.

“Richard was known and respected for his great humanity and a no-nonsense style that transformed Compass into one of Britain’s leading companies.”

Blakemore, previously deputy group chief executive, has taken control with immediate effect. He had not been due to take the helm until 1 April.

He was chief financial officer of Iglo Group from 2010 to 2012 and previously held various finance roles at Cadbury.