BAE Systems Hires Firm To Find New Chair
BAE Systems, the defence contractor, has appointed headhunters to identify a successor to Dick Olver, the long-standing chairman who will step down during the next 14 months.
I understand that BAE's nominations committee has hired Spencer Stuart, a search firm, to recruit a new chairman for BAE, one of the most prestigious roles in British business.
The start of BAE's search comes five months after the arms manufacturer ended talks about a 34bn Euro merger with EADS, the owner of Airbus, amid opposition from the German government and concerns about the impact of a deal on BAE's relationship with the Pentagon, one of its most important customers.
The search for Mr Olver's successor is being led by Nick Rose, the senior independent director of BAE, in accordance with corporate governance guidelines.
BAE has already signalled that Mr Olver, who took over as chairman in July 2004, would step down at next year's annual meeting at the latest. He may leave several months earlier than that date depending on the progress of the search for his replacement.
A former deputy chief executive of BP, Mr Olver is a widely-respected figure, serving as a Business Ambassador to David Cameron and a member of the Prime Minister's Business Advisory Group. He also advises Clayton Dubilier & Rice, the buyout firm, and HSBC.
The collapse of BAE's merger with EADS triggered an angry response from some shareholders, including Neil Woodford, an influential fund manager at Invesco Perpetual, who called for Mr Olver's resignation in the wake of the transaction's termination.
The majority of BAE investors have, however, continued to support Mr Olver, arguing that he has played a pivotal role in steering the company through huge corruption problems and helping it win key contracts around the world.
Among those in the frame to replace him is likely to be Sir Roger Carr, the chairman of Centrica and president of the CBI, the employers' group. Sir Roger has told friends that he would be keen on the job as he plans his departure from his other posts.
Sir John Rose, the former chief executive of Rolls Royce has reportedly been sounded out but it is unclear whether he wants a major public company role. Sir Kevin Smith, the former boss of GKN, is another possibility.
A BAE spokeswoman confirmed the appointment of Spencer Stuart but declined to speculate on the identity of possible successors to Mr Olver.