Jim Armitage: Great call for equality but tough task for GSK's leader Emma WalmsleyComments Off on Jim Armitage: Great call for equality but tough task for GSK's leader Emma Walmsley
For a long time, Sir Philip Hampton has talked the talk when it comes to putting brilliant women into top roles in the boardroom. Today, he has walked the walk.
Selecting the excellent Emma Walmsley to the top job at one of Britain’s highest-profile companies sends a clear message to other boards that there is no reason not to follow his equality mantra.
Not only does the appointment state to the world that GSK is a modern organisation, it will also inspire women throughout the business to aim for the very top.
That said, the task facing Walmsley is immense, amid recent shareholder unrest about GSK’s performance and demands for it to be broken up. Her elevation from the consumer side of the business above Abbas Hussein from pharmaceuticals may trigger talk that she will focus on splitting off the products she’s championed like Sensodyne from medicines. She is, after all, a marketer, not a scientist.
The statement to the Stock Exchange this morning suggests she’ll do no such thing. Now she must make a concerted effort to meet her investors and explain why not, or today’s shares fall will continue.
Top 10 shareholder Neil Woodford wanted an outsider to take over and split up the business. Agitators like him don’t give up easily, no matter whose name is on the chief executive’s door.
Turkey gets a basting
Not content with the inquiry into BHS, Frank Field has reopened his corporate Turkey of the Year contest and alighted on Bernard Matthews’ pension fund. The not-so-bootiful poultry producer is to collapse into a pre-pack administration and re-emerge from the ashes in a sale to food tycoon Ranjit Boparan.
The plan hatched by Bernard Matthews’ private equity owner Rutland and Boparan is for the pension to be dumped into the Pension Protection Fund, with Boparan buying the business liability-free and Rutland walking away. For Bernard Matthews’ staff yet to retire, that means a 10% cut on their future pension payouts.
Frank Field perhaps feels he’s heard all this before with Sir Philip Green and is now demanding an investigation. There are echoes of BHS: Rutland Partners’ exit through a pre-pack isn’t a million miles from big Phil’s sale of BHS for a pound. And BHS pensioners could still end up in the PPF.
The similarities shouldn’t come as a surprise, because Green’s behaviour over BHS was not that different from many private-equity deals. For decades PE funds have been buying firms, moving them offshore and loading them up with debt while they extract cash. When it goes wrong, they find the cheapest way out of their liabilities, leaving the PPF bearing the scars.