Sage chief tops FDs-turned-CEOs chart

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A survey by Accountancy Age’s sister title Financial Director, showed that Walker has added a total shareholder return of almost 975% relative to the market. His success was way ahead of the 60 or so other chief executives who had once been finance directors among the FTSE350.

Figures produced by Financial Director, using data from Thomson Financial Datastream and Boardex, showed 34 out of 58 CEOs who had once held the top finance post have outperformed the markets during their time in charge.

Walker’s performance at Sage as CEO since January 1994 is exceptional and in some part due to the explosion in IT. However, it remains that the value created in share price and dividends is phenomenal.

Not too far behind Walker, however, is William Colvin, CEO at care-home owner NHP since November 2000. Colvin has managed in just two years to build a total shareholder return, relative to the market, of 728%. And this when the FTSE was suffering badly.

The performance of finance specialists will highlight for recruiters that the UK?s community of FDs is a good place to search for future CEOs. However, executive recruitment specialists believe there is a residual bias against FDs when it comes to looking for a good chief executive.

Samuel Johar, chairman of headhunters Buchanan Harvey, said: ‘Usually when companies look for a CEO they tend to be slightly biased. They think FDs lack leadership, marketing and inter personal skills.’

At the bottom of Financial Director?s list came Sir Martin Sorrell who became CEO at media giant WPP in 1986 after nine years as FD at Saatchi & Saatchi. Sorrell’s total shareholder return, relative to the market, is -57.4%, a figure no doubt exacerbated by the huge downturn in advertising.

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