Whitbread PLC, the multinational hotel, coffee shop and restaurant company headquartered in Dunstable, has announced the appointment of Richard Baker as chairman with effect from 1 September 2014. He succeeds Anthony Habgood who, after nine successful years as chairman, announced in January his decision to step down from the board.

Baker has been an independent non-executive director on the Whitbread board since September 2009. He is currently Chairman of Virgin Active Group, a role he has held since 2008 and chairman of DFS Furniture Holdings where he has been since 2010. Baker was previously chief executive of (Alliance) Boots Group Plc from 2003 to 2007 and prior to that was chief operating officer at Asda Group Plc.

Sir Ian Cheshire, Whitbread’s senior independent director who led the nominations committee process commented: “We have conducted a thorough search, with the help of executive search consultants, to identify the most suitable person to become the next chairman of Whitbread. We were lucky enough to have a very strong field of potential candidates but at the end it was clear to us that Richard was the best choice to take on the role of chairman. He has a very strong record in both managing and chairing consumer businesses, a deep understanding of Whitbread’s operations through his role as a non-executive and a strong empathy with our ethos, culture and commitment to serving our customers. We are delighted that he has accepted the role.”

Commenting on his appointment, Baker said: “Throughout my time on the board, I have admired the strength of the company’s businesses and brands. I strongly endorse the common values shared throughout the group and its consistent focus on putting the customer first. It will be an honour to become chairman of this great company, and I look forward to it continuing to deliver on its strategy for growth. ”

Anthony Habgood, chairman, commented: “It has been a privilege to have been the chairman of Whitbread over the past nine years. It is a company with tremendous potential and I’m sure that Richard is the right person to chair the board for the next phase of its development. I wish Richard and everyone at Whitbread every success in the future”