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D & D London Head Des Gunewardena appointed as Interim Chair of London First

London First has announced today the appointment of Des Gunewardena, Chairman and Chief Executive of D & D London restaurant group, as interim Chairman.

Gunewardena takes over from Harvey McGrath, who last week announced his decision to step down from the position following his nomination as the Interim Chair of the London Development Agency.

Commenting on his appointment, Des Gunewardena said:

“I am thrilled to become interim Chair of London First.  London is the most exciting city on the planet.  From the highest calibre entertainment and restaurants to the global centre of financial services, the capital has a world class reputation.  London First has worked tirelessly to maintain that reputation and give strong business leadership for the capital.  I look forward to building on this.”

Baroness Jo Valentine, Chief Executive of London First, said:

“We are fortunate to have someone with Des’ breadth of experience and deep understanding of the capital at the helm.  London is facing great change and London First will, as ever, be at the forefront in pushing for it to remain the world’s leading city in which to work, live and do business.  I am enjoying working closely with Des.”

“I would also like to thank Harvey McGrath for his outstanding Chairmanship, providing strong leadership and commitment.  I wish him success in his role as interim Chair of the London Development Agency.”

Des Gunewardena is the Chairman and Chief Executive of D&D London (formerly Conran Restaurants) and the Deputy Chairman of Conran Holdings. D&D London is one of Britain’s most dynamic restaurant groups and currently owns and operates 29 restaurants in London, Paris, Copenhagen, New York and Tokyo.

–  ENDS –
Notes to Editors

1. Des Gunewardena has worked with Terence Conran since June 1991 in founding and developing the Conran Holdings group from a business employing 100 people with one restaurant and one store in London into a group which in 2006 had sales (including licencees) of some £150m p.a. and over 2000 staff. Des was appointed Conran’s CEO in 1995 and became Deputy Chairman of Conran Holdings and Chairman of the restaurants following the buyout of the latter by D&D London in September 2006.

2. Des was born in Sri Lanka and has lived in London for most of his life. He went to school in Wimbledon, London. He is a graduate of Bristol University and a Chartered Accountant who qualified with Ernst & Young in 1981. In the mid 1980’s he was responsible for financial planning at Heron International, a £1billion privately owned group of companies with activities in property, trading and financial services in Europe and the USA. He subsequently held directorships in operating companies within the Heron group. He was also, for a number of years, a non-executive director of Fitch plc, a leading international design business. Des is currently a non-executive directorship of the AIM-listed Individual Restaurant Company plc.

3. London First is a business-led membership organisation. We work with and on behalf of our members, the capital’s major businesses in key sectors such as finance, professional services, property, ICT, creative industries, hospitality and retail, together with higher education institutions (universities) and further education colleges.

4. Our influence is built upon the breadth, depth and calibre of our membership, who collectively represent over a quarter of London’s GDP. Our credibility comes from our informed, in-depth policy development, supported by proactive and creative campaigning, as well as from our record of achievement. We develop innovative, practical and timely solutions to London’s strategic challenges.

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