Compass Group today said it was “deeply shocked” by the tragic death of its group chief executive, Richard Cousins, in a plane crash on New Year’s Eve.
Mr Cousins, 58, and four members of his close family, along with the pilot of the aircraft, were all killed in the accident in Sydney, Australia.
In a statement on its website, Compass Group – the world’s largest catering company – expressed its “deep sadness” at the news.
Paul Walsh, Compass group chairman, commented: “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.
“It has been a great privilege to know Richard personally and to work with him for the last 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.”
Mr Cousins is credited with transforming Compass into a £20 billion global catering and outsourcing operation over the past decade. He was due to step down from his role at Compass at the end of March, having confirmed back in September that he planned to retire.
According to reports in today’s nationals, the seaplane crashed into the Hawkesbury River near Cowan, north of Sydney, at 3.10pm on Sunday. It was understood to be on its way to Rose Bay on Sydney Harbour.
Mr Cousins was on board with his fiancee, Emma Bowden, 48, her daughter Heather, 11, and his sons Edward, 23, and William, 25.
Sydney Seaplanes, the company which owned and flew the aircraft, issued its own statement this morning.
Aaron Shaw, managing director of the firm, said: “All at Sydney Seaplanes are deeply shocked by this incident and the resulting loss of life. We wish to pass on our heartfelt condolences to the Bowden and Cousins families and the family of our pilot Gareth Morgan who were tragically killed.
“I would like to take this opportunity to thank the NSW Police and all that were involved in the recovery yesterday, this would have been a harrowing task and we are extremely grateful to them for their work.”
Mr Cousins was appointed group chief executive of Compass Group in 2006. His appointment followed six years as CEO of BPB, the building materials company which was acquired by the French group, Saint Gobain, in 2005. He was a former non-executive director of P&O, HBOS, Reckitt Benckiser Group and Tesco.
In a separate announcement to the market, meanwhile, Compass Group said that Dominic Blakemore would now lead the company with immediate effect.
Mr Blakemore, previously the company’s COO, was originally due to take over on April 1 after Mr Cousins had retired.
Compass Group generated annual revenues of £20 billion in the year to 30 September 2016. It operates in over 50 countries, employs more than 500,000 people and serves over five billion meals every year.