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Domino’s UK business CFO, 51, dies in snorkeling accident

Eric Pfanner
Bloomberg

The chief financial officer of Domino’s Pizza Group Plc died in a snorkeling accident, leaving a growing management void at the franchise holder for the fast-food brand in the U.K. and Ireland.

David Bauernfeind, 51, died while on vacation with his family in Mauritius on Thursday, according to a spokesman. The company’s chairman and chief executive officer had previously announced plans to step down.

David Bauernfeind.

“He was a force for good within the business and will be greatly missed,” CEO David Wild said in a statement.

Bauernfeind, a former executive at newspaper distributor Connect Group Plc, joined Domino’s Pizza Group last year. The company, listed in London, is separate from Domino’s Pizza Inc. in the U.S.

The CFO’s death comes days before Chairman Stephen Hemsley plans to step down this weekend. The company is also seeking a successor to Wild, though no date for his departure has been set. In the wake of Bauernfeind’s death, there’s no immediate plan for CFO succession, the spokesman said.

Domino’s Pizza Group said in October that it planned to withdraw from four markets in Europe where the business has struggled. In the U.K. and Ireland, the company has been locked in a dispute with franchisees over the distribution of profits.

Despite the management turmoil and the tension with franchisees, who say they’ve been squeezed by increased operating costs, the shares have risen about 40% this year.

Gains accelerated after the company said in November that Usman Nabi, chief investment officer at hedge fund Browning West, was named to the board. The activist fund holds a 5.3% stake in Domino’s Pizza Group, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

The shares traded 0.5% higher on Friday.