Our leadership team

We are run by a Board of expert non-executive directors who are recruited for the skills and experience they can bring to bear in helping us achieve our objectives and goals, plus our chief executive. The Board meets ten times a year and looks at business and financial plans, risk, long term strategy, treasury and key perfomance issues.

They are supported by a management team consisting of three executive directors.

Vivienne Horton

Vivienne Horton

Chair of the Board

Vivienne's professional background is as a solicitor. She was employed in a number of local authorities in senior legal roles before becoming Director of Resources and then Chief Executive of Macclesfield Borough Council. As Chief Executive her five key roles were strategic management ,community engagement including partnership working , service delivery , performance management and organisational development.

Following her retirement from that role in 2009, as a result of local government reorganisation, Vivienne held a number of part time roles between 2009 and 2015 including:
Director of Risk at Standards for England - a national strategic regulator responsible for councillor conduct
Director and Head of the Public Sector team at Kennedy Cater a legal costs consultancy.


Andrew Frayling

Andrew Frayling

Andrew is a Managing Director of his own international engineering software company and is a founding board member of Tor Homes.

Previously Andrew was European Liaison for one of the largest ‘Telework’ or outsourced telecoms placement projects for the European Commission, organised across cultures, languages and work patterns. He also worked for a number of years with Native Americans on housing in northern Canada.

James Healy

James HealyJames Healy has been active in the engineering, construction, finance and general management sectors for more than 50 years. During his career he has worked in six countries, starting with General Electric Company in the USA in 1964.

In 1980 he founded his own engineering services company in Ireland and led it for ten years until he merged it with Fortune 500-listed Jacobs Engineering. After six years as Vice President and Managing Director of Jacobs UK and Irish operations, he left to puruse further investment activities.

Since then he has founded a number of companies and served as Operations Director of Bristol-based Pieminister.

James joined the Merlin Board in September 2015.

John O'Neill

John O'NeillJohn is a director of South Gloucestershire Traded Services. A former general manager in the hotel and catering industry, he is also member of the Institute of Hospitality. In partnership with his wife Sandra John owned and operated Charfield Post Office and stores for twenty years.

John is the South Gloucestershire Councillor for the Charfield Ward which comprises the villages of Charfield, Cromhall, Falfield and Tortworth. As a Councillor he is at the heart of the community trying to help with the issues that will make a difference to peoples lives.

Loretta O'Driscoll

Loretta O'Driscoll Loretta spent many years working for Souh Gloucestershire Council. During her time there, she managed teams and offices in the Adult Learning Difficulties, Adult Care and Mental Health Teams. Previous roles have included Business Manager Adult Community Learning at South Gloucestershire Council, and in the private sector, as Financial Director for a small manufacturing company and Group Accounts Manager managing the day to day operation of the central accounting function in a multinational business.

In February 2012 Loretta left her role as Office Manager with South Gloucestershire Council to become a full time carer. She has been a social housing tenant for more than 20 years. She was previously a member of a residents committee group which worked with Magna Housing during a redevelopment programme of properties to ensure effective communication with residents during this time.

Loretta has been involved in fundraising and developing community groups in support of a special school for children with disabilities. She brings to the Board strong financial and accounting skills, an understanding of resident involvement and community action and a background in the service requirements of adults and children with special needs.

Richard Bird

Richard Bird Richard has been involved in the housing and development industry for over 40 years. During his first decade, his career developed from planner, to project manager, and ultimately to Head of Production for a PLC home builder. The next four years provided a much wider experience as a Director of construction, housing and development  companies within a private limited group.

Returning to the PLC environment in 1991 , Richard joined Taylor Woodrow and was appointed to the board of the housing subsidiary a year later. The strategic plan for growth in housing would provide many opportunities and challenges for the next two decades.

He was appointed Regional Managing Director in 1994, and in 1996 given responsibility for the South West and Wales. Ten years of organic growth was accompanied by both mergers and acquisitions. The merger of Taylor Woodrow  with George Wimpey in 2007, resulted in Richard being appointed Divisional Managing Director, responsible for four business units in the South West and Wales. He held this post until 2013.

Having been responsible for delivering thousands of private and affordable homes, many of which are in the South West, he brings a wealth of experience to the team.

Richard Penska

Richard Penska Richard is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Certified Accountants.
Richard is currently Assistant Director, Corporate Services at North Somerset Council, his previous roles within North Somerset Council have been, Head of Audit, Revenues and benefits and Chief Internal Auditor.
Before joining North Somerset Council, Richard held a variety of positions within the Electricity Supply Industry and the Department of Health and Social Security.

Richard has operated at strategic management level within a number of functions, including , Exchequer services, Internal Audit, Risk management and Customer services.
He has extensive experience of contract and relationship management and is well versed in contract law, administration, negotiation and commercials.

Robert Nettleton

Robert Nettleton

Chief Executive

Robert joined Merlin as our Chief Executive in March 2014.
Prior to joining Merlin, Robert was Chief Executive at Cornwall-based Coastline Housing, which was named 70th in the Sunday Times Top 100 best not-for-profit companies to work for. Under Robert's leadership Coastline also achieved Investors in People Gold status and a 92% customer satisfaction rating with the overall services provided, making them the best in the south west.
Before joining Coastline, Robert was Group Development and Regeneration Director of the LHA-ASRA Group, covering an area from London to North Nottinghamshire. He was responsible for the group’s development programme, resident involvement, community investment, and property services.
Robert has also held a number of Non Executive Director positions with organisations that focus on regenerating communities and social enterprise.

Executive directors

Martyn Blackman

Martyn Blackman

Director of Investment

Martyn joined Merlin is our Director of Investment in May 2017.

Martyn has joined Merlin from Aster Group where he worked for ten years, most recently as Development Director. At Aster he oversaw a development programme delivering 1,000 affordable homes a year including hundreds of properties for shared ownership and a programme of 250 homes for private sale. During this time he also spent seven years as a Board member of Bristol Community Housing Foundation.


Paul Coates

Paul Coates

Director of Housing and Communities

Paul joined Merlin in May 2015 as our Director of Housing and Communities.

He was previously Director of Operations at Homes in Sedgemoor for nearly five years, during which time customer satisfaction increased by 6%. Prior to this Paul was Managing Director at Toynbee Housing. 

Sue O'Neill

Sue O'Neill

Finance & Resources Director

Sue joined Merlin as Finance Director in October 2006, just prior to the transfer of South Gloucestershire Council’s housing stock to Merlin to put the funding arrangements in place and to shape finance and ICT systems and processes.

In October 2011 she was appointed to the role of Finance & Resources Director, which has seen her remit increase, and now includes Finance, Procurement, ICT, and Business Assurance.

Sue has a wealth of experience and broad expertise having worked in finance for over 25 years within a variety of private and not for profit businesses.  Sue began her career working for Hazlewoods, a Gloucestershire accountancy firm and after qualifying as a Chartered Accountant, moved in to the private sector working as the Financial Controller for Pennant International.

With over 15 years of senior management and housing experience, Sue’s career in housing started in 1997, first joining Housing 21, a national housing and care provider for older people, as their South West Finance & Systems Manager.  Following this, Sue joined Cambridge Housing Society as their Finance Director, where she was actively involved for five years as part of the Executive team in delivering substantial growth within the organisation and in developing and delivering strategies to increase its financial capacity.