The Big Hire: Tom Wright

The chief executive joins Guide Dogs from Age UK

Tom Wright
Tom Wright

Tom Wright will leave Age UK in September after eight years as chief executive to take up the same position at Guide Dogs.

Wright is unlikely to experience such a turbulent start at Guide Dogs as he did at Age UK back in 2009.

When he joined, the charity had just been formed by the merger of Age Concern England and Help the Aged to create the UK's largest charity for older people. The move was fiercely resisted by some local Age Concerns, which decided to retain their old names and remain separate.

In the same year, Age Concern England had apologised for a failed membership venture called Heyday, which lost £22m. In a damning report, Sir Christopher Kelly branded Heyday a "classic case study of what not to do if you want an organisation to succeed".

Wright will replace Richard Leaman, who left Guide Dogs at the end of November. He will be taking up the post after years of strong financial growth at Guide Dogs: the charity had an income of £103.7m in 2015, up from £66.1m just four years before.

Wright says he is "thrilled and honoured" to take up the Guide Dogs role. "It is an exciting time to be joining the charity because it is doing more now than ever before to help people who are blind or partially sighted gain freedom and independence," he says.

Before joining Age UK, Wright was chief executive of VisitBritain, which markets Britain as a tourist destination. Before that, he was managing director of Saga Holidays.

Jamie Hambro, chair of Guide Dogs, says Wright will bring a "wealth of experience". He says: "He has the knowledge, experience and background to lead the organisation and ensure the delivery of a range of life-changing services to those living with sight loss."

Steve Vaid, acting chief executive at Guide Dogs, will become chief operating officer. Steph Harland, deputy chief executive of Age UK, will become its acting chief executive until a new chief executive is appointed.

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