Overview: New PostComm chairman Nigel Stapleton

Stapleton, a 56-year-old veteran of the media sector, joins the regulator at an interesting time for the postal industry.

The postal market is on the verge of opening up to competition.

It is a move that has great potential to cause further unrest at the embattled Post Office, just recovering from unofficial strike action.

Commentators agree that Stapleton is a force to be reckoned with. The Cambridge-educated economist is an FCMA with a string of chairmanships and directorships. He is currently chairman of convenience food group Uniq and previous positions include the chairmanship of Cordiant and Reed International (from 1997 to 1999).

He was chief financial officer at Reed Elsevier from 1993 to 1996 and is currently non-executive director of the London Stock Exchange and Reliance Security Group.

Commentators have described Stapleton as a serious force in business and ‘second to none’ as a finance director. One media analyst referred to him as a ‘consummate financial operator’.

He is best known for his turnaround of the business at Uniq (formerly Unigate). Soon after his appointment as chairman in July 2001, the chief executive resigned. Stapleton took the reins, sold most of the dairy assets and refocused the business around convenience foods.Stapleton was also highly regarded during his time as Reed’s finance director, but he became co-chairman at a difficult time for the Anglo-Dutch media group, which saw top-line growth stall, badly received investment and a rash of profit warnings.

Observers will be hoping for a better outcome than that at Cordiant, however. Although his arrival was welcomed by shareholders, Stapleton, along with chief executive David Hearn and finance director Andrew Boland, was ousted at a fiery emergency general meeting earlier this year when Sir Martin Sorrell’s WWP took over Cordiant under a scheme of arrangement.

WWP bought Cordiant, which was demerged from Saatchi and Saatchi in 1998, for just £10m in July this year, drawing criticism of the management team.

At its peak, the advertising company was a £1.4bn player.

The chairmanship should allow him time for his other directorships. Stapleton will work a three-day week at Postcomm and draw a salary of £75,000. He takes up the appointment on a three-year term and will join the regulator in January.

‘Nigel will bring considerable business and financial experience to the role,’ said Patricia Hewitt. ‘He takes over the chair at a time of significant change in the postal market, when the regulator has a key role overseeing the opening of the market to give customers access to a wide range of high-quality, competitively priced services, while ensuring that all postal users continue to have access to the basic universal postal service.’

Stapleton succeeds Graham Corbett, who has been chairman of Postcomm since its introduction in 2000. Corbett was the senior partner of Peat Marwick’s continental European firm in Paris. He then became chief financial officer and a main board director of Eurotunnel.


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