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Crest Nicholson ousts boss to bring in chief of rival builder

Housebuilder Crest Nicholson ousted its boss after just a year in charge on Tuesday as it poached the head of rival Galliford Try in a bid to revive its fortunes.

Crest’s Patrick Bergin took over as chief executive at last year’s annual meeting, but leaves today after 13 years with the business following a string of profit warnings.

He is likely to depart with nine months of his basic salary of £470,000 according to terms announced on his appointment.

His successor Peter Truscott, who joins in September, will start on a bigger salary of £650,000 with a potential £800,000-plus bonus and share options on top. Crest said its remuneration committee “is satisfied that it is paying no more than necessary to attract a candidate of Peter’s calibre”.

The Galliford man is a far more experienced housebuilder than Bergin, having spent nearly 20 years at Taylor Wimpey as its Southern chief and at its predecessor George Wimpey. Before that he was at Cala Homes.

Shares in Crest, down around 20% in the past year, rose 6% or 20.6p to 373.6p. Peel Hunt’s Gavin Jago said: “Given Crest’s target to increase activity in this area and its Southern geographic bias, he looks a good fit for Crest and its strategy.”

Crest has been forced to turn to a more experienced boss because the firm has been caught in the eye of the storm due to Brexit uncertainty. The housebuilder is pulling out of a struggling central London property market, where sales rates have broadly halved.

Crest is also exposed to sales of more “aspirational” homes in the Home Counties worth £800,000 or more, which are ineligible for the Government’s Help to Buy Scheme. That prompted three profit warnings in six months last year and a 15% fall in profits. The firm shifted strategy to concentrate on cashflow and dividends in January, as well as moving towards cheaper homes through partnerships.

Crest has secured 50% of its sales for the year but sales remain under pressure.

It said: “The business has faced challenges with dampened customer demand in higher price point areas. This is likely to continue as political uncertainty prevails.”