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Diana Hunter leaves beleaguered Conviviality

Conviviality has confirmed the resignation of its CEO Diana Hunter after the company suspended trading its shares due to concerns over its profit and a £30 million tax bill.

Diana Hunter will step down from the board of Conviviality with immediate effect

Hunter, who has acted as CEO of leading UK alcohol wholesaler and distributor Conviviality since 2013, will step down from the board of the company with immediate effect.

The company’s non-executive chairman, David Adams, will step into the role of executive chairman from today (Monday 19 March) until further notice.

The current leadership team of James Lousada (commercial director), Mark Moran (CFO), David Robinson (MD retail), Steve Jebson (buying and insights director), Mark Riley (operations director) and Sarah Miles (people director) will “continue to run the business on a day to day basis”.

Steve Jebson, Sarah Miles and Mark Riley will report to James Lousada “as an interim measure”.

Hunter “will remain with the company for a period of time in order to provide transition support”, Conviviality, owner of Bargain Booze, said in a statement. A long-standing executive in the UK retail industry, Hunter spearheaded Conviviality’s IPO in 2013 and engineered a number of acquisitions, including Matthew Clark, Bibendum PLB, and Peppermint.

Last week, Conviviality suspended trading its shares on AIM – a sub-market of the London Stock Exchange – after identifying a £30m (US$42m) tax bill. The company later said it is “engaged” with HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) regarding the payment, adding that HMRC has “been receptive to our needs”.

Conviviality warned the tax bill could further damage its profit, which it already estimated would be “20% below current market expectations” due to a “material error” in the financial forecast for Conviviality Direct.

Conviviality has hired PwC to assist it in its forthcoming discussions with HMRC and key stakeholders, including its lending banks, credit insurers, suppliers and other creditors.

The group cancelled an interim dividend of 4.5p per share that was due to be paid on Friday 16 March, providing it with £8.2m (US$11.5m).

It is also “engaging with advisers and brokers regarding the possibility of an equity fundraise to effect a recapitalisation of the business”.

Conviviality has not yet resumed trading of its shares.

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