Embattled banknote and passport maker De La Rue gets new CEO

Edmund Heaphy
Finance and news reporter
De La Rue last year lost the contract to print UK passports. Photo: Dinendra Haria/SOPA Images/Sipa USA

De La Rue (DLAR.L), the embattled banknote and passport maker that is under investigation for suspected corruption, on Monday said it had appointed former Rolls-Royce executive Clive Vacher as CEO.

Vacher replaces Martin Sutherland, who announced he was stepping down in May after the company, which lost the contract to print UK passports in 2018, reported a 77% drop in pre-tax profits and issued its third profit warning in 15 months.

In a statement, De La Rue chairman Kevin Loosemore pointed to Vacher’s “experience of business turnarounds,” saying that it would be “invaluable” to the company as it addresses its ongoing challenges.

Vacher, who has taken up the role with immediate effect, was previously CEO of Dynex Power, a Lincoln-based supplier of semiconductor products. He has also worked at Rolls-Royce and Pratt & Whitney, an aerospace manufacturer.

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The UK government in March 2018 decided not to renew its contract with De La Rue to print British passports, which prompted a fiery response from the company.

French-Dutch competitor Gemalto was picked for the 10-year, £490m contract. The government later said that Gemalto would also manufacture the much-anticipated post-Brexit blue passports.

In July, De La Rue disclosed that the Serious Fraud Office had opened an investigation into “suspected corruption” relating to its business in South Sudan.

De La Rue has been at the centre of several probes by the Serious Fraud Office, including a 2010 investigation into the falsification of banknote quality certificates by employees.

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In 2011, it spent six months designing and manufacturing the currency for South Sudan, which was then the newest country in the world.

It is the largest commercial printer of passports in the world, and has designed around a third of the banknotes in circulation around the world.

As part of the row over the contract for UK passports, Sutherland demanded that then prime minister Theresa May visit the company’s factory to outline why her government made the decision to “offshore” the manufacturing of the British passport.

After pledging to appeal the contract decision, Sutherland said a month later that De La Rue had taken legal advice and made the “pragmatic business decision” not to contest the UK government decision.