FTSE 100: All change at the top

With five chairman positions open - and three filled last week - the FTSE 100 is going through unprecedented change. Why all the reshuffles?

by Emma Haslett
Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013

Ladies and gentlemen, dust off your CVs: there are at least five chairman positions available (and one about to be) on the FTSE 100 at the moment.

You may have just missed roles at caterer Compass (Diageo chief Paul Walsh got that last week), coal miner Bumi (admittedly a FTSE 250 company – but nonetheless, ex-BP man John Manzoni clinched the position last week as well) and BAE Systems (the company announced – last week as well – that it had recruited Centrica chairman Sir Roger Carr). But here’s the FTSE 100’s job board at the moment:

Centrica

Although it’s not against the rules to have more than one chairman role, Centrica chairman Sir Roger Carr clearly thought taking on a role as big as chairman at defence firm BAE Systems was enough to warrant his sole attention. A prospective Centrica chairman will need a thick skin – energy companies have been lambasted in the press for their high profits.

Glencore Xstrata

The newly-merged company was formed last month (MT was sad to see that management had ignored its suggested name – the somehow-more-pleasing ‘Xcore’), but is still looking for a chairman after John Bond, the former Xstrata chairman, was denied the chance to lead the tie-up by angry Xstrata shareholders. The hunt is being led by interim chairman Tony Hayward, the former BP chief exec. Applicants with a passion for sailing will be strongly considered.

Lloyds

Sir Win Bischoff announced in May that he would depart by this time next year – not exactly great timing, considering the bank is readying itself for privatisation and its chief exec, Antonio Horta-Osario, has been off work with stress once already. The winning applicant will earn around £700,000 a year (dependent on experience) and will need to be good at following orders from above: any dissent, and they could find themselves going the way of RBS’ Stephen Hester.

WPP

A rare opportunity has come up to join the board of advertising giant WPP, after chairman Phil Lader, who’s been in situ since 2001, announced his resignation last week after a row broke out over founder-chief executive Sir Martin Sorrell’s pay, which hit £17m last year. Applicants will be well compensated for any boardroom disagreements, though: Lader has earned £425,000 for two consecutive years.

Glaxosmithkline

After seven years as GSK chairman, Sir Christopher Gent said in April that he planned to step down in ‘the next two or three years’, so the company is leading a casual search for a replacement. Applicants will need to be good with people (the company has nearly 100,000 employees) – although a background in pharmaceuticals isn’t necessary. Before GSK, Sir Christopher was CEO of Vodafone, after which he went on to serve on the board of Lehman Brothers, between 2003 and 2008.

RBS (soon)

Admittedly it hasn’t been announced quite yet, but it’s worth getting that CV ready because following the chief executive Stephen Hester’s ‘decision’ to step down, chairman Sir Phillip Hampton has strongly hinted that he might be close to leaving, too. Clearly, Hester’s unceremonious exit hasn’t gone down well with Hampton. Like the new Lloyds chairman, those without a strong record of taking orders from above needn’t apply.

The number of vacancies is, say headhunters, ‘unprecedented’. Why have they all come up at once? Lyndsey Simpson, co-owner of executive search firm the Curve Group, says it’s partly coincidence – and partly down to the ‘wave of scandals’ that have engulfed UK PLC lately.

‘Financial services in particular has suffered,’ she explains. ‘It has veered from one disaster to the next.’

The next generation of chairmen will have a different outlook to their predecessors, she adds.

‘Post-crash, it’s no longer about corporate greed – it’s someone who can steer the ship through choppy waters,’ she says. ‘Companies are looking for chairman they can trust to repair battered reputations. They want a safe pair of hands, people who are going to make the right decisions for both the customer and the shareholder.’

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