Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Getting the Right Balance in the Boardroom

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Getting the Right Balance in the Boardroom

Article excerpt


ASTON VILLA chairman Doug Ellis is 77. He has chaired the football club for more than 30 years and is known, not surprisingly, as Mr Aston Villa in certain parts of Birmingham.

The club floated four years ago at 1100p but the shares are now trading at 170p, not one of the stockmarket's better investments and a disappointment for the 15,000 or so fans who bought into the flotation.

Aston Villa's annual meeting takes place next Friday and Ellis comes up for re-election. Among the larger institutional shareholders are some who feel he should make way for new blood.

Ellis is not only chairman but also chief executive. The dual role rarely finds favour with fund managers and such concentration of power at the top is particularly frowned on when a company's shares are heading south. Aston Villa has a disappointing season and a large wage bill behind it, neither of which seems propitious for the share price.

Institutions with an antipathy towards badly-structured boardrooms have plenty to irritate them at the moment.

They are waiting for the Woolworths board to improve following the group's surprisingly strong stock market debut this week.

Chairman Gerald Corbett is running the company while the search for a chief executive continues and there is concern about the nonexecutive section of the board.

Andrew Beeson is described as the senior independent director.

He is also at the helm of struggling stockbroker Beeson Gregory and shareholders wonder if he has much time to spare for Woolworths while his own firm is having to cope with such a challenging market environment.

Institutions perhaps reserve their most vehement corporate governance criticism at present for Bioglan Pharma. Not only is there resentment at the dominance of chairman and chief executive Terry Sadler but also deep annoyance about the non-executive component of Bioglan's board. …

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