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The corridors of power ...

A decade ago, I clearly remember writing about men like Professor Sir Roland Smith and his stunning collection of 11 UK directorships.

By boardroom standards, that was pretty good going. That was long before Cedric Brown and the outcry over ‘fat cat’ pay at British Gas, let alone Derek Higgs and his supposed reforms.

Ten years on, many would presume that the boardroom crown goes to men like Lord Marshall of Knightsbridge, often on the receiving end of attacks over boardroom cronyism. However, new analysis by The Times suggests otherwise.

The real power in British boardrooms vests in men like Sir Robert Wilson, soon to step down at Rio Tinto, and Sir Mark Moody-Stuart, formerly of Shell.

Cronyism might be under attack, with Higgs and the rest, but the boardroom club still looks pretty healthy. It will take years to open the boardroom to fresh blood. In the meantime, the spoils are there for those at the top.

Is this such a bad thing? There is much to be said for cross-fertilising ideas by exposing boards to different influences – provided the non-executives make a useful contribution. In too many cases in the past, the non-execs have just been along for the ride.

Fresh influence continues to seep in – note the increasing presence of Dutch and South African nationals, from Mike Levett at Old Mutual to Maarten van den Bergh at Lloyds TSB.

Interestingly, Lord Sharman of Redlynch creeps into The Times Power 100 rankings, thanks to directorships at BG and Reed Elsevier. Now there’s a man who could express his views forcibly.

The boardroom is changing, but that will take time, and there is something to be said for sharing business knowledge, provided the non-execs earn their money.

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