Housebuilder appoints US hospitality exec and UK publishing boss to its board

Vistry has announced two new board members to start on 18 May, in the wake of the resignation of two non-executive directors in March. 

Helen Owers

Helen Owers will be a member of Vistry’s nomination committee, audit committee and remuneration committee

The £2.73bn-turnover housebuilder has appointed US hospitality executive Paul Whetsell and Helen Owers, who has extensive experience in a variety of fields. 

Whetsell is currently the chief executive of US hotel investment firm Capstar Hotel Company and Owers is at the moment a board member for publishing and business intelligence company Informa. Whetsell will become chair of the company’s remuneration committee and member of the nomination and audit committees.  

The appointments come after the resignations of two non-exec directors on Vistry’s remuneration committee amid controversy over the firm’s US investors proposing a £60m bonus for executive Greg Fitzgerald. 

Katherine Innes Ker and Nigel Keen, chair of the remuneration committee, quit as the appointment to the board of Jeffery Ubben, Inclusive Capital Partners’ founder and managing partner, was announced. It is believed the US investors of the housebuilder pushing for the bonus include Inclusive Capital Partners and Browning West.

Earlier this year Vistry set out plans for building 20,000 homes a year after reporting a pre-tax profit of £248m for the 2022 calendar year.

Whetsell, who splits his time between the US and the UK, founded CapStar Hotel Company, based in Virginia, US, in 2006, and has more than 30 years of hospitality acquisition and operations expertise. From 2008 to 2018 he was a non-executive director for the US homebuilder NVR. He is also on the board and chair of remuneration committee of hotel company Hilton Grand Vacations, and non-exec director of hospitality firm Boyd Gaming Corporation. Hilton Grand Vacations and Boyd Gaming Corporation are both listed on the New York Stock Exchange.   

Owers will be a member of Vistry’s nomination committee, audit committee and remuneration committee. She worked her way up through her career to president of global business and chief development officer at information firm Thomson Reuters. She was at Thomson Reuters for nearly 11 years until July 2012 and is member of the nomination and remuneration committees for Informa, where she is responsible for employee engagement. 

She has also been a non-executive director and chair of the remuneration committee from 2012 to 2020 of personal healthcare products firm PZ Cussons. 

Ralph Findlay, chair of Vistry’s board, said: “Vistry Group is now a substantially larger and more complex business following our acquisition of Countryside. The significant operational expertise of Paul and Helen, plus Paul’s housebuilding sector experience and Helen’s UK-listed company experience, will strengthen the Board as we continue our focus on delivering high quality homes to more customers and sustainable value to our shareholders.” 

Vistry’s £1.2bn takeover of Countryside completed last November. 

After the firm’s annual general meeting on 18 May there will be four non-executive directors on the board. The firm said it would continue with recruiting board members in the coming months in a way that would “continue to balance and strengthen the board recognising the skills and experience required for the enlarged business”. 

The proposal for hiking Fitzgerald’s salary 150% above its current level, if the firms’ share price hits £18 within three years, is part of a proposed incentive package for Vistry staff. Neither Whetsell or Owers has any beneficial interests in the ordinary shares of the company.