governance

Andrew Hill

Stephen Elop, ex-Nokia, soon-to-be ex-husband

I firmly believe boards need to be less squeamish about prying into their senior executives’ private lives, particularly when divorce is looming, because the corporate consequences can be grave. Now researchers at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business have broadened the debate to suggest that shareholders should worry about chief executives’ marital disharmony, too.

Divorce, they write, could undermine CEOs’ control and influence, affect their “productivity, concentration and energy levels”, and have an impact on their attitude to risk. They cite Rupert Murdoch’s split from Wendi Deng and the divorce of Harold Hamm, CEO of Continental Resources, from his wife. News of the first, thanks to a pre-nuptial agreement, left News Corp shares unmoved; news of the second, with no pre-nup, knocked 2.9 per cent off Continental Resources’ stock price as investors worried about the fate of Mr Hamm’s 68 per cent stake in the group. Read more

Andrew Hill

The controlling Jack Ma

Well done, Hong Kong. By sticking to its principles and not bending to Alibaba’s pressure for an unusual board control structure, the city’s stock exchange has struck a blow for investor rights over the increasing demands of technology executives.

Not that it will make a jot of difference. Read more

Andrew Hill

Pope Benedict XVI. Getty Images

How does the Pope’s decision to step down measure up against best practice in corporate succession planning?

Luckily, the Association of British Insurers – which issues regular guidance on governance issues – has recently, ahem, pontificated on this matter, recommending that companies improve their succession planning and have strong candidates ready to take over as chief executive. Read more

Andrew Hill

Adam Posen’s attack on the management and culture of the Bank of England may be the strongest yet, but it is by no means the first – and won’t be the last – criticism of a persistent and dismaying lack of robust governance at the UK central bank.

What is astonishing is that despite countless warnings – three independent reviews, several newspaper editorials and sundry MPs’ warnings – the central charge that the governor is over-mighty and under-governed still stands. Read more

Andrew Hill

Research for the latest Harvard Business Review ranking of the best-performing chief executives since 1995 – topped by Steve Jobs, as it was in 2010 – also yields some interesting new insights about whether to pick insiders or outsiders to run the company.

The study points out that, overall, insider CEOs do better, ranking on average 154 places higher than outsiders on long-term measures of total shareholder return and increase in market capitalisation. But there was little difference between the performance of insiders and outsiders in continental Europe, China and India. Read more

Andrew Hill

Are networks both good and bad? Getty Images

The assumption that “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know” has informed business and politics for decades, even centuries. But the benefits of strong networks – and networking – are shadowed by threats. When is a network too cosy, and, if you’re outside the network, how would you know?

The Corporate Library – now part of GMI Ratings, the governance research group – has for years been developing tools to answer this question, particularly in the US. In 2002, researchers there did some bespoke research for the Financial Times looking at cross-company links among directors of the FT 500 list of the world’s largest listed companies. It revealed that because of multi-tier boards in continental Europe, the most closely connected directors oversaw French and German companies, such as BNP Paribas and Allianz. Read more

Andrew Hill

Entrepreneurs should take a look at the video of Groupon founder Andrew Mason being interviewed at Wednesday’s Business Insider conference. It could be the last time you see him as the internet company’s chief executive. The board is due to meet later on Thursday to discuss his future, in the wake of the sharp fall in the stock since its IPO. A series of brutal leaks suggests his job is on the line.

Mr Mason evinces an odd and contradictory mixture of arrogance and humility. For example, he told Business Insider CEO Henry Blodget: Read more

Andrew Hill

Anglo American’s Cynthia Carroll would quite justifiably like to be assessed for her performance as a chief executive, not as a female chief executive. The same goes for two other prominent chief executives of UK companies who have announced their departure this month: Marjorie Scardino at Pearson (which owns the FT) and Kate Swann at WH Smith.

But the continued scarcity of female CEOs worldwide, the fact that two of this trio will be replaced by men (Ms Carroll’s successor has yet to be named), and the coincidence with a heated debate about gender quotas in European Union boardrooms make this a legitimate theme.

Specifically, it draws attention to the only element of the gender quota debate that pro-quota and anti-quota camps agree on (apart from the ultimate objective of achieving greater balance): that it is more important to fill the pipeline of female executives than it is to stock the board with female non-executives. Read more