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Sir John Sunderland


Sir John was appointed Chairman of Merlin Entertainments in 2009 and was appointed Chairman of the Company in 2013 following its flotation on the London Stock Exchange. He is currently Chancellor of Aston University and an adviser to CVC Capital Partners. Sir John was Chairman of the Cambridge Education Group from 2014 to 2017.

Previously, Sir John was Chairman of Cadbury Schweppes from 2003 to 2008 and Chief Executive Officer from 1996 to 2003.  He was also President of the CBI from 2004 to 2006, President of the Chartered Management Institute from 2006 to 2007 and President of the Food and Drink Federation from 2002 to 2004.

From 1998 to 2006, Sir John was a Non-executive Director of the Rank Group and from 2004 to 2011, a Director of the Financial Reporting Council. He was also a Non-executive Director of Barclays Bank PLC from 2005 to 2015 and of AFC Energy plc from 2012 to 2015.

Serves on Nomination Committee (Chair), Health, Safety and Security Committee (Chair), and Remuneration Committee.

Nick Varney

Chief Executive Officer

Nick has nearly 30 years’ experience in the visitor attractions industry and was appointed Chief Executive Officer of Merlin Entertainments in 1999. He was appointed a Director of the Company on 20 October 2013.

Nick started his career in FMCG marketing, first with Rowntree and then with Reckitt Colman. He went on to hold senior positions within The Tussauds Group (Pearson PLC), including Marketing Director of Alton Towers and Head of Group Marketing, before becoming Managing Director of Vardon Attractions and a main board director of Vardon plc. In 1999 Nick led the management buyout of Vardon Attractions to form Merlin Entertainments and, in 2005, initiated the process which led to its acquisition by Blackstone.

Nick is Chairman of UKHospitality, the trade body representing the UK’s hospitality and tourism industry with a membership of over 45,000 companies.

Serves on Health, Safety and Security Committee.

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Anne-Francoise Nesmes

Chief Financial Officer

Anne-Francoise was appointed Chief Financial Officer in August 2016. With over 25 years’ experience in finance across international organisations, Anne-Francoise brings a strong focus on strategy execution, M&A, process improvement and governance.

Anne-Francoise started her career in the UK as a Finance Graduate Trainee at John Crane, before moving to Tetra Pak, then ADP and later Caterpillar UK. In 1997, she joined GlaxoSmithKline and held a variety of increasingly senior roles across the organisation in the UK and overseas, including Senior Vice President of Finance for Vaccines. In April 2013, Anne-Francoise joined Dechra Pharmaceuticals PLC as Chief Financial Officer, where she was instrumental in transforming Dechra into a successful pharmaceutical company specialising in animal health. She led the expansion of its international footprint through acquisitions and delivered significant efficiencies through modernising Finance and R&D processes.

Anne-Francoise is a Non-executive Director of Compass Group PLC.

Serves on Health, Safety and Security Committee.

Yun (Rachel) Chiang

Independent Non-executive Director

Rachel Chiang joined Merlin’s Board on 1 January 2016. She brings extensive experience of the Asian consumer and property markets, having held a number of senior executive and non-executive roles in the region.

Rachel is the founding Managing Partner of Prospere Capital Ltd, a private equity house based in Hong Kong. She was a founding Managing Partner of the private equity business Pacific Alliance Group (PAG), one of the region’s largest Asia-focused alternative investment managers with over $20 billion in AUM.

She is an Independent Non-executive Director at Sands China, Pacific Century Premium Developments (PCPD) and Goodbaby International Holdings Ltd, all companies listed on Hong Kong Stock Exchange.

Serves on Audit Committee and Health, Safety and Security Committee.

Andrew Fisher

Independent Non-executive Director

Andrew Fisher OBE was appointed to the Board in July 2018.

Andrew was instrumental in establishing Shazam, the mobile lifestyle app that recognises music and TV with over 1 billion users globally. Prior to joining Shazam in 2005, Andrew was European Managing Director at Infospace Inc and Managing Director at  Over the past 20 years he has led the successful growth of a number of technology-focused enterprises.

He is also a Non-executive Director of Marks & Spencer and

Serves on Audit Committee and Remuneration Committee.

Charles Gurassa

Senior Independent Non-executive Director

Charles assumed the positions of Senior Independent Non-executive Director on his appointment as a Director of the Company, following the Company’s IPO.

Charles is currently the Non-executive Chairman of Channel 4, Chairman of Great Railway Journeys and Deputy Chairman of easyJet plc. He spent 35 years in the travel and tourism industry where his roles included Group Chief Executive of Thomson Travel Group plc, Executive Chairman of TUI Northern Europe and Board Member of TUI AG, and Director of Passenger and Cargo business at British Airways.

He was formerly Chairman of Tragus, Deputy Chairman of The National Trust, and most recently Non-executive Chairman of Genesis Housing Association. He is a Trustee of English Heritage and the Migration Museum.

Serves on Remuneration Committee (Chair), Nomination Committee, Health, Safety and Security Committee, and Audit Committee.

Fru Hazlitt

Independent Non-executive Director

Fru Hazlitt joined Merlin’s Board on 1 April 2014. Fru was formerly Managing Director, Commercial and Online, of ITV and prior to that Chief Executive Officer of GCap Media  and Virgin Radio, and spent six years at Yahoo! where her roles included Managing Director, UK and Ireland, and Sales and Marketing Director, Europe.

Fru is currently a Non-executive Director at Channel 4 and was previously a Non-executive Director of Betfair Group plc. Fru is also the chair Chair of Downe House Foundation and Deputy Chair of Downe House School.

Serves on Nomination Committee, Health, Safety and Security Committee, and Remuneration Committee.

Trudy Rautio

Independent Non-executive Director

Trudy joined Merlin’s Board on 1 October 2015. Trudy was formerly Chief Executive Officer of Carlson, a privately held global hospitality and travel company from which she retired in 2015. Trudy had been a senior executive with Carlson since 1997, having served as Executive Vice President and Chief Financial and Administrative Officer of Carlson preceding her appointment as CEO.

Prior to joining Carlson, Trudy served as Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of Jostens, Inc, and served as Vice President of Finance for Minneapolis-based Pillsbury Co. Trudy also serves on the Board of Directors for Cargill, The Donaldson Company, Inc., and Securian Holding Company, and was formerly Chair of the Board for The Rezidor Hotel Group.

Serves on Nomination Committee, Audit Committee (Chair), Remuneration Committee.

Søren Thorup Sørensen

Non-executive Director

Søren was appointed a Non-executive Director of the Company in 2013, representing KIRKBI.

Søren is currently the Chief Executive Officer of KIRKBI, following his appointment in March 2010. He was formerly a Partner, Chief Financial Officer and member of the Group Executive Board of A.P. Moller – Maersk Group between 2006 and 2009. Prior to this he was Managing Partner of KPMG Denmark, having been a Partner at KPMG since 1997.

Outside the KIRKBI Group, Søren is currently Chairman of the Board of Boston Holding A/S and Non-executive board member of Falck A/S.