Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

We Need to Support Home-Grown Talent

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

We Need to Support Home-Grown Talent

Article excerpt

Byline: Nick Goodway

THE departure of Ian Smith after only eight months in charge at Reed Elsevier is a salutary lesson for boardrooms everywhere. For once, I actually believe the company when it said he was leaving by mutual agreement. There may have been some minor disagreements over strategy, not least the on-off sales of the trade publishing division, which includes titles ranging from Farmers Weekly through New Scientist to Flight International. But to be fair to Smith, that was something placed firmly on the agenda by his predecessor Sir Crispin Davis, who failed to secure the [pounds sterling]1 billion-plus sale.

No, this was quite clearly a case of the wrong man in the wrong job. It is likely that new chairman Anthony Habgood -- who knows a thing or two about chairing big companies (he still also chairs Whitbread) -- quickly learned this when he arrived in July.

Whether it was simply his own dealings with Smith, feedback from investors or chat among fellow directors that decided him, he did not take that long to show the former chief executive of Taylor Woodrow the door.

In comes Erik Engstrom as Reed's new chief executive.

I gather that he was considered for the role two years ago when Davis first told the board he planned to leave. He was rejected on the grounds that he was too young at the then age of 44 and had only been running one of its key divisions -- the health and scientific publishing business Elsevier -- for three years.

Now, two years on, he's old enough and Elsevier is one of the jewels in Reed's crown which has coped with the recession better than most. It was an expensive mistake not to have appointed him first time round. It will cost Reed the thick end of [pounds sterling]1.1 million to see off Smith. And Engstrom has certainly screwed a better contract out of the board than even Smith had. …

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