SYDNEY/LONDON (Reuters) - The chief executive of British catering giant Compass Group Plc <CPG.L> and four members of his family were killed when the seaplane they were flying in crashed into a Sydney river on New Year's Eve.
Richard Cousins, 58, chief of the world's biggest catering firm, died together with Emma Bowden, 48, Heather Bowden, 11, Edward Cousins, 23, and William Cousins, 25, according to Detective Superintendent Mark Hutchings of the New South Wales Police.
Australian media identified the dead as the CEO's two sons, his fiancee and her daughter. The pilot, Gareth Morgan, 44, also died.
Cousins had been due to retire on March 31.
Compass said the new chief executive, Dominic Blakemore, would now start on Jan. 1 instead of April 1 as originally planned.
Compass, with annual turnover of almost 23 billion pounds ($31 billion), employs around 550,000 people around the world providing food services to schools, the armed forces and office workers.
Blakemore, who has worked at Compass since 2012 with roles as both finance director and head of the group's European operations, has a background in accounting. He has also held senior financial roles at British food groups Cadbury and Birds Eye Iglo.
Compass Chairman Paul Walsh said in a statement: "The thoughts of everyone at Compass are with Richard's family and friends, and we extend our deepest sympathies to them."
"Richard was known and respected for his great humanity and a no-nonsense style that transformed Compass into one of Britain's leading companies," he added.
Cousins led Compass over the past 11 years. He was widely credited with turning the company's business around and making Compass into one of the FTSE 100's best-performing firms, and had also been named as one of the world's best-performing CEOs by Harvard Business Review.
He joined Tesco <TSCO.L> as an independent director in 2014 at the height of the British supermarket chain's accounting scandal, stepping down from that role at the start of 2017.
The family are believed to have been flying back to Sydney from an exclusive waterfront restaurant in Jerusalem Bay when the plane crashed, the BBC reported.
Police are working with the Australian Transport Safety Bureau to recover the wreckage of the plane, which is submerged in 13 meters of water near Cowan, north of Sydney. A probe into the cause of the crash has begun, with a preliminary report expected within 30 days. Authorities have warned it may take up to a year to find out what happened.
The seaplane was part of the Sydney Seaplanes business that offers sight-seeing trips and has operated since 2005 with no previous record of mishap. Seaplane flights have been canceled until further notice.
Cousins' son William worked at Open Britain, a group campaigning to keep Britain in the European Union single market, and directors and co-workers praised him as an enthusiastic and talented team member.
(Reporting by Alana Schetzer in Melbourne, writing by Elisabeth O'Leary; Editing by Himani Sarkar and Adrian Croft)