Saga boss Euan Sutherland sails into sunset after four brutal years

Saga’s boss quit yesterday after four challenging years that included the closure of its cruise business during the pandemic.

Euan Sutherland said the ‘time is right’ to step down as he left his job at the over 50s holiday and insurance firm immediately.

He was replaced as chief executive by finance chief Mike Hazell, who joined the group last month.

Sutherland, 54, was appointed in January 2020, months before Covid sparked a global shutdown of the travel industry.

There has been a rebound in demand for Saga’s cruises since the end of the pandemic but it has struggled with higher insurance claims due to rising inflation.

Slipping his moorings: Euan Sutherland, who has quit as the chief executive of Saga

Slipping his moorings: Euan Sutherland, who has quit as the chief executive of Saga

The company is in talks to sell its insurance underwriting business to pay down debts, which stood at £650million in its half-year accounts.

Saga has hired bankers from financial advisory firm Lazard to explore ways to reinforce its balance sheet, according to Sky News.

Shares have fallen more than 80 per cent since January 2020 and are worth 95 per cent less than when the company listed in 2014.

Sutherland said yesterday that ‘the time is right for someone else to take Saga into the next phase of its development’.

A spokesman for Saga said Sutherland told the board earlier this year of his intention to step down.

‘After joining Saga in January 2020, Euan stabilised the business, launched a new strategy and significantly strengthened the leadership team,’ the spokesman said. 

‘He steered Saga through the Covid-19 pandemic and oversaw detailed work to reinforce the brand and acknowledge new income streams.’

Before joining Saga, Sutherland was chief executive of Superdry owner SuperGroup but in 2019 he was forced out by the brand’s founder Julian Dunkerton.

He was previously Co-op Group chief executive but resigned in 2014 after less than a year following a row with the board.

Sutherland will stay at Saga until the end of January to preserve the leadership transition.

Former Debenhams boss Hazell will take over the top job immediately. He was previously interim finance chief at the Co-op Group and has held senior roles at BskyB and Pfizer. Mark Watkins, chief corporate development officer, will take over Hazell’s former role.

Saga chairman Sir Roger De Haan, who is the son of the firm’s founder Sidney De Haan, thanked Sutherland for his ‘enormous’ contribution to the company.

De Haan said the ‘changes are the result of carefully managed succession planning’.

He added: ‘The board and I look forward to working with [Hazell and Watkins] to deliver for our customers and our shareholders.’

Shares fell 5.5 per cent.


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