On the money

Grote has been finance director at the oil giant for as long as any one can
remember, though no one can quite remember meeting him.

Usually my next sentence would begin with, ‘Perhaps that’s a little unfair…’
but in this particular case I can’t quite bring myself to say it. Grote doesn’t
seem to get much. In fact he appears to be a virtual corporate recluse compared
to his oppos at other FTSE 100 companies.

Grote, you’ll remember, is in the news because his boss at BP, Lord Browne,
is stepping down early leaving investors and journalists to speculate on whether
Grote will stay on or follow Browne out the door.

Investors must presumably meet Groat on occasion, but it will be a little
hard for journalists to say they’ll miss him given his apparent absence from all
media coverage.

In many senses it seems like an old fashioned CEO/FD relationship. Browne’s
the figurehead, the media player, the mouthpiece and, of course, the man who
takes the flak. Back at the ranch, or should we say oil field, Grote has his
sleeves rolled up doing the numbers.

This is unlike say Sir Terry Leahy and Andrew Higginson of Tesco. Sir Terry’s
out and about, but his FD Higginson clocks up the air miles and long hours in
the media spotlight too.

George Rose, FD at BAE, is another strong media player for his boss. In fact,
along with Higginson, they’re both out there publicly owning their respective
company’s performance just as much as their CEOs.

So perhaps we are about to see some change at BP. An FD big enough to take on
the job will want his 15 minutes in the spotlight and is unlikely to be as
retiring as Grote. Should make for some interesting times.

Gavin Hinks is the editor of Accountancy Age

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