BusinessCorporate FinanceThe corridors of power…

The corridors of power...

There must be something addictive about taking on non-executive directorships at blue chip plcs. What else can explain the phenomenon of the ‘serial non-exec’ ­ the man (or occasionally woman) whose name crops up on various boards?

What’s that I hear you say? Money? Yes, of course, but there must be more to
it than that.

Serial non-execs evolve in cycles. In my career, it started with men like Sir
John Harvey-Jones, the former ICI chairman known for his taste in kipper ties.
He carved a successful niche as non-exec and corporate troubleshooter.

Then came Professor Sir Roland Smith, a man who almost literally staggered
under the weight of his various directorships. More recently we have had Sir
Colin Marshall, the former British Airways chief executive.

Now, enter John Buchanan, the 62-year-old New Zealander who has built an
impressive portfolio of directorships since retiring as chief financial officer
of BP in 2002.

He is on the board of Vodafone, AstraZeneca and BHP Billiton and last year
became deputy chairman of Smith & Nephew, the medical devices company. In
May, he succeeds Dudley Eustace as chairman of Smith & Nephew.

Long before Buchanan left BP, chief executives and chairmen were quietly
citing his name as a man to watch. With his sharp mind and canny instincts, he
is an invaluable sounding board.

Above all, Buchanan is superbly well-organised. Board meetings of his various
companies are held all over the world. Managing his diary is no small task.

Taking on his first chairman’s role is a natural progression for this
talented leader, but he will have to work hard to ensure that all his boards
receive equal attention. But he will have thought of that. He’s a Kiwi.

Jon Ashworth is a freelance journalist

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