Co-owner Lloyds may back non-family candidate in drive for more involvement in housebuilding assets

Housebuilder Countryside may bring in a chairman from outside the Cherry family for the first time in its history as part of a drive by co-owner Lloyds Banking Group to take a closer interest in its housebuilding assets.

The appointment would be a departure for the 52-year-old, family-run builder, and comes after founder and chairman Alan Cherry’s death in January. Sources have said Lloyds, which through its takeover of HBOS has stakes in several housebuilders, is looking to get more involved in the running of the businesses as the recession eases.

Countryside is run by Alan’s two sons, chief executive Graham and deputy chairman Richard.

Graham Cherry said he was working with Lloyds, which has a 50% stake in the firm, to “add to the top team”. He said: “We will work out the roles and responsibilities between us, and if the chairman is an outsider, it’ll be because it’s someone we believe adds value.”

He said the search began before Alan’s death, and that neither he nor Richard would take a step back. “There’s no doubt the name Countryside and Cherry are synonymous, and the name does open opportunities, so we don’t want to lose that,” he said.

A source close to Lloyds said the move could be replicated elsewhere. “It’s about the bank reassessing its strategy as the downturn eases. I wouldn’t be surprised to see it making similar appointments at other housebuilders. HBOS recognises Countryside as a good business and this is just about ensuring it does as well as it possibly can.”

He added that an appointment from within HBOS was unlikely, and company sources said Countryside was hoping to appoint someone who had spent some time outside the housing industry.

The Cherry family brought the firm back into private ownership in 2005 with the backing of HBOS following 30 years on the stock exchange. Lloyds also holds stakes in builders Crest Nicholson,