Pizza Express chief executive abruptly resigns

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Richard Hodgson has resigned as chief executive of Pizza Express, citing ‘personal reasons’, just two weeks after announcing plans for expansion and indicating he was planning for long-term growth.

After joining the 500-strong global pizza chain in 2013 Hodgson oversaw the group’s acquisition by Chinese private equity firm Hony Capital for £900m.

The acquisition has since enabled faster expansion in overseas markets. With Hodgson’s supervision Pizza Express expanded its global presence with the launch of new locations including China and the UAE.

Mr Hodgson will be replaced by ex-Stabrucks man, Jinlong Wang, chairman of Pizza Express for the past two years and acting chief executive of the chain’s Chinese business.

Mr Hodgson only recently spoke about plans to open the brand’s first motorway site before his unexpected resignation.

Revenues at the chain increased 14% last year as a “challenging market environment” in the UK was offset by good growth in Asia, where the Chinese-owned chain expanded its presence.

Overall sales reached some £488m. During the period the firm opened 18 new UK restaurants and a similar amount in Asia.

Last month, like-for-like sales in the UK and Ireland fell by 1% following stiff competition from rivals like Franco Manca, although the brand reported a return to growth in Q1 of this year.

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