Shareholder value – the debate continues

Ten days ago the FT published my interview with Paul Polman, chief executive of Unilever, in which he made some strikingly robust comments on the (in his view misguided) theory that public companies should worry about creating shareholder value before anything else.

Several letters representing almost every possible point of view have since been published in the paper: derisory, technical, supportive, adulatory. My colleague Michael Skapinker offered his own wise perspective yesterday, and today we have published two more readers’ letters on the topic.

Is there anything left to say? Plenty. Yesterday my colleague Ravi Mattu and I had a fascinating conversation with Roger Martin, dean of the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto. He had some forceful observations to make on one of the key elements of the shareholder value debate: the idea that top pay should be tied to the company’s share price to align management’s interests with those of the shareholders.

Tomorrow I am heading to Milan to attend a symposium hosted by the European Academy of Business in Society (EABIS), which is titled “The future of economics and management in a post-crisis world”. Shareholder value is firmly on the agenda. I shall blog a few highlights when I get a moment to do so.

And I shall try and make some sense out of all this in my column next Tuesday (April 20).

About the authors

Stefan Stern writes a column on Tuesdays on management. He is winner of the 2010 Towers Watson award for excellence in HR journalism, and has previously won awards from the Work Foundation and the Management Consultancies Association.

Ravi Mattu is the editor of Business Life, the FT's management features section, and a former editor of the Mastering Management series. He joined the FT in 2000 from Prospect magazine

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