Former Economist boss becomes CBI's first female president

Ex-Economist Group CEO Helen Alexander will become the first woman president in the CBI's 44-year history.

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

The Confederation of British Industry said today that Helen Alexander has been nominated to succeed BA’s Martin Broughton as its next president. If she’s voted in on June 2 at the AGM, it’ll be the first time in its history that the CBI has had a woman in the role. Alexander’s credentials are impeccable: she spent 11 years as CEO of the Economist Group, during which the venerable magazine group’s profits soared; since leaving last year to go plural, she’s added an advisory role at Bain Capital to her directorships at Rolls-Royce and Centrica. And as an added bonus, it certainly won’t hurt the CBI’s image to be appointing a female president.

BA chairman Broughton, who’s stepping down after two-and-a-half years, said Alexander’s success in building ‘a first class international business’ at the Economist Group would make her ‘an excellent President’. Alexander joined the Economist in 1985 and was promoted to the top job in 1997; during her 11 years in charge, she won plaudits for boosting circulation, increasing shareholder returns and expanding the business into research and other publications. In fact, she was one of the few departing UK bosses last year that shareholders actually wanted to stay…
Broughton also praised her ‘extensive boardroom experience’ – as well as Rolls-Royce and Centrica, she’s served on the boards of Northern Foods and BT, while her role as an adviser to Bain Capital (the private equity firm founded by former/ future Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney) will have given her a good grounding in lots of different sectors. ‘That brings with it a real ‘hands-on’ understanding of the competitive and other pressures facing business today,’ Broughton said. She certainly should have seen the effects of the downturn first-hand, having worked for a private equity firm for the last year.

If you’re wondering what the CBI president actually does, apparently their main role is lobbying: mostly sweet-talking ministers and promoting UK plc worldwide. She’ll also chair the CBI board, and she should be on familiar terms with director-general Richard Lambert - the Economist Group is half-owned by Pearson, owner of the Financial Times, which Lambert edited for a decade between 1991 and 2001. Two media types running Britain's biggest trade body - we thoroughly approve...

In today's bulletin:

Lloyds to raise £4bn as Blank checks out
Former Economist boss becomes CBI's first female president
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