Pubs and restaurants group Mitchells & Butlers is moving closer to appointing a new chief executive and has a short-list of candidates in place, chairman Bob Ivell told Reuters in an interview after the company's annual shareholder meeting.

We're well on track, I would say ahead. We've got a shortlist, Ivell said on Thursday. I took over as executive chairman in October, we're in January. It's not a lot of time to recruit. I started the process all over again and refocused it.

M&B has been without a chief executive since previous incumbent Adam Fowle left his post last March and has suffered from boardroom upheaval with six chairmen coming and going in the past three years amid accusations the company's biggest shareholder, Joe Lewis, wields too much influence.

The company has faced criticism from shareholder groups unhappy with the lack of independent directors on its board. Its two non-executive directors are representatives of Lewis, who holds a stake of over 25 percent in the business and Ivell vowed to address investor concerns.

I'm getting on and sorting it out. Clearly, I recognise the need to have independent directors, what I don't want is people that don't add value to the business. Finding the right people that are going to add value to our business and bring different skills is important to me and that's what I'm looking at.

Ivell declined to comment on whether Lewis, who scrapped plans to launch a takeover of the company last October, would launch a fresh bid in April, when takeover rules enable him to make another offer. However, he said he had held positive discussions with the billionaire currency trader, who also owns Premier League soccer club, Tottenham Hotspur.

I speak to our major shareholders and everything has been positive, he said.

(Reporting by Matt Scuffham; Editing by Sarah Young)