May 3--For Whitbread chief executive David Thomas, few things better symbolise how his company has changed than his new head office. He operated out of a picturesque former brewery near the Barbican in the City until recently.
But now that Whitbread no longer brews, or owns pubs, he is on the 25th floor of a tower block that offers a panoramic view of almost every London landmark.
It may be less than five minutes" walk from the old premises in Chiswell Street - but it is light years away in corporate thinking.
"We are turning Chiswell Street into executive residences, and we are going to put it into very good commercial use. It was a reflection of the Whitbread past rather than a Whitbread future," says Thomas. "Now we have a very small head office, and I don't have to spend the first 10 minutes of a meeting with institutional investors, particularly Americans, telling them why we are in such a quaint building."
Many thought Thomas a surprise choice as chief executive in June 1997. Few guessed that a company that had been in brewing since 1742 was heading for a drastic makeover. Like Allied Domecq and Bass, Whitbread was on the verge of deciding that unsexy …