Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Retailer Goes, Airports Man Arrives; Ousted: Chief Executive Stephen Nelson Paid the Price after a Year of Criticism

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Retailer Goes, Airports Man Arrives; Ousted: Chief Executive Stephen Nelson Paid the Price after a Year of Criticism

Article excerpt

Byline: CHRIS BLACKHURST

FOR those who know Sir Nigel Rudd, the chairman of BAA, the last fewmonths have been marked by uncharacteristic silence.

A hard-headed businessmanthey don't come any harderwho likes to be seen to be in charge, Rudd has remained in the background. Evenwhen the airport operator's problems mounted, Rudd was invisible. He waswatching and waiting, and weighing up whether to act.

Finally, he's made his move and Stephen Nelson, the squeakyclean chiefexecutive he inherited, has paid the price.

To be fair to Rudd, he always said he would play himself in when hisappointment was announced last summer. A tough industrialist, famous in theCity for building up Williams Holdings on the back of a series of takeovers ofunfashionable brands then just as quickly, breaking up the edificeand netting himself and shareholders a substantial profitRudd is nobody's fool.

After Williams, he took on the chairmanship of Boots and

Pilkington and sold them as well.

At BAA, he genuinely sees himself on a missionto improve the airports and give people the first-class service they crave. Forall his image, he is a shrewd reader of public opinion.

He's acutely aware of the mounting tide of opposition aimed in BAA's direction,particularly from his fellow businessmen.

He also likes his colleagues to be a certain wayand in that regard, Nelson probably never had much of a chance. An Oxfordgraduate who studied Latin, Greek and classical civilisation, who was a fitnessfanaticfor pleasure he rode one of the fiercest mountain stages of the Tour de Franceand who slipped into management-speak at the drop of a hat, he was the polaropposite of Rudd.

He was also, critically, lacking in breadth. He was a marketing man, who workedin Diageo, the drinks giant. For a while he ran Guinness Great Britain and theGuinness World Records. He left there for Sainsbury's where he oversaw thedevelopment of the store chain's non-food lines, including jeans. …

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