News analysis

Noel Doyle
  • Tiger Brands, still dealing with the fallout of the listeriosis outbreak, has appointed Noel Doyle as its CEO.
  • Doyle was disciplined by Tiger Brands as part of a group apparently held responsible for fixing the price of bread, the company's previous major scandal.
  • He left Tiger for a couple of years during which he ran a panel beating chain and Nando's Southern Africa, then returned to Tiger, and was rapidly promoted back to his old job.
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Listed food company Tiger Brands has a new CEO with a long – if interrupted – history with the company, which includes being closely linked to a scandal around bread price-fixing.

Noel Doyle, currently the chief financial officer, will take over as CEO on 1 February when Lawrence Mac Dougall retires, Tiger announced on Wednesday morning.

In a brief note to shareholders, Tiger's chairperson Khotso Mokhele said its board was "pleased to have appointed someone of Noel’s calibre" after what he described as "a rigorous and extensive search process".

According to Doyle's official company profile he was appointed CFO in 2015, and joined the company's executive committee in 2012. But his history with Tiger Brands goes back far longer than that – and is not without stain.

In 2008 Tiger Brands confirmed that Doyle had been "disciplined" as part of a group of 26 staff members identified in an investigation into bread price-fixing. He reportedly received a final written warning.

Tiger admitted it had colluded with rivals on the price of bread, and paid a R98.9 million penalty for its role in the cartel, but without serious and obvious consequences for high-ranking executives – initially. The company's internal investigation was reportedly reopened after an anonymous letter, from what appeared to be its own managers, alleged then CEO Nick Dennis as well as Doyle – who was CFO at the time – knew about the collusion.

Dennis took "early retirement" a month later. Doyle resigned another three months later, with Tiger Brands expressing regret at his departure, in what he described as the execution of a long-held idea.

Doyle then spent one year as the CEO of Bluespec, an automotive holding company best known for its Renew-It chain of panel-beating shops, and just under three years as the CEO of Nando's Southern Africa, before "quietly" returning to Tiger Brands, by his LinkedIn timeline just over four years after leaving under a cloud.

Initially Doyle ran a division of Tiger. But within three years he was promoted to chief operating officer (COO), and slightly over a year later, in 2016, he was made CFO again, regaining the post he had vacated in 2008.

Throughout its handling of the bread price-fixing scandal, Tiger's line was that it had not really affected consumers.

In a current class action suit around an outbreak of listeriosis – unequivocally linked to Tiger Brands by the National Institute of Communicable Diseases – the company has maintained that its liability has not yet been established.

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