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Robert Walters to retire from eponymous hiring firm he founded in 80s

By Radhika Anilkumar

(Reuters) - Robert Walters, chief executive of recruiter Robert Walters, is retiring from the group he founded nearly four decades ago.

Walters, 68, a British national, will step down from the board on April 27 and be replaced by company insider Toby Fowlston as its CEO designate, the company said in a statement.

"During his tenure, he has helped the group successfully navigate the dotcom bust, the global financial crisis and a global pandemic," Chairman Leslie Van de Walle said in the statement.

Walters worked at Michael Page, now PageGroup, as one of its first employees before he started his recruitment firm.

The business, which was started in 1985 with its first office in Central London, now has a presence across 31 countries with over 4,300 employees.

The company, which specialises in recruitment of staff in the legal, accountancy and tech sectors, said Fowlston has been with the group for about 23 years. He is currently CEO of the Robert Walters and Walters People global recruitment brands.

Shares of the company were up 3.7% at 510 pence at 0913 GMT.

"The stock is bucking the wider market downturn in today’s session, staging gains as investors cheer the change in leadership," Victoria Scholar, analyst at online investment platform interactive investor said in a note.

Bigger London-listed rival Hays Plc said last month it was looking for a successor to long-serving Chief Executive Officer Alistair Cox.

After initially benefiting from a post-pandemic market driven by staff shortages, recruiters have been held back more recently by employer caution on hiring plans as inflation remains high.

The macro-economic uncertainties have tipped over into the early months of 2023, the recruiter said.

"It's too early to tell whether this is a short-lived correction or a more prolonged economic slowdown," the company added.

The company reported an 8% rise in operating profit for the year ended Dec. 31.

(Reporting by Radhika Anilkumar in Bengaluru; Editing by Savio D'Souza and Muralikumar Anantharaman)