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The corridors of power...

The day before Michael Green admitted defeat over the ITV chairmanship, Carlton's non-executive directors embarked on a frantic round of lobbying.

Their ports of call included the business section at The Times, which doesn’t see many visitors.If you have ever been to Wapping, you will understand why.

I was struck by the oddity of seeing non-execs taking a stand – people who are more often found sitting in silence at the agm, jumping to attention when the chairman tells them to.

Carlton’s entourage included Sir Sydney Lipworth, past chairman of the Monopolies and Mergers Commission, and John McGrath, the former Boots chairman. Traipsing round newspaper offices was unnerving. It is hard to imagine Lord Simpson or Sir Roger Hurn of Marconi fame stopping by for a cup of coffee after what has been written about them.

Rarely has the non-executive director been in such a position of power.

Sir Robert Wilson, soon to become chairman of BG Group, says that non-execs are expected to speak out on matters that count. The Carlton episode suggests his words have been heeded, even if the move was to no avail.

For a recently retired senior figure, taking on two or three non-exec positions has its attractions. Just look at Sir Edward George. He has snapped up three non-exec directorships – Rothchild, Nestle and Grosvenor Group. The difficulty will be deciding where to draw the line.

Having the former Bank of England governor on your board is likely to go down well with the shareholders, but as to how effective Sir Edward will be, who can say? Boardrooms are becoming more transparent, but there is still a long way to go.

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