Darren Hele. picture: SUNDAY TIMES

Darren Hele. picture: SUNDAY TIMES

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Darren Hele, the man taking over from Kevin Hedderwick as CEO of Famous Brands, knows he has big shoes to fill. The two have worked together since 2003, when Famous Brands bought Wimpy, where Hele was MD.

Says Hedderwick: "We know each other; we know each other’s styles, moods and capabilities."

When the Financial Mail asks what makes Hele a worthy successor, they look at each other, and Hedderwick quips that maybe Hele should leave the room.

"He understands the industry. Technically he ticks all the boxes and he knows this business because he’s seen it evolve over the past 13 years. Every deal we’ve done, we’ve integrated together. He’s a phenomenal leader in terms of people skills and he’s bought into the vision of the organisation," he says.

Hele’s journey was from the bottom of the pole. He started working as a part-time shift supervisor at Pizza Hut 24 years ago, while at university, when it was owned by Pleasure Foods.

"It was a clerical job. It wasn’t the best job in the world but at 20 it was great experience."

Hele likes the speed and pace of the industry as well as interacting with people.

"It was my first exposure to business but it was completely different from what my mates were heading into — becoming accountants and bankers. For me it’s just a calling. It was never planned," he says.