10 crucial minutes under the tapestries

TOM STEVENSON

City Editor

Michael Lawrence discovered he was to face a vote of no-confidence only half an hour before the scheduled 11 o'clock board meeting in the starkly modern board room at the top of the Stock Exchange building on Old Broad Street. He had little time to prepare the most important address of his two years as chief executive.

He spoke for only a few minutes to the 17 assembled board members, three short of a full complement, seated around the large crescent shaped table that dominates the room. Less wood-panelled old City than medieval court, his fate was to be decided under the shadow of a series of magnificent tapestries, representing the City of London.

John Kemp-Welch, his chairman, then informed Mr Lawrence that the loss of confidence with which he was viewed by both the board and the Stock Exchange's members had reached crisis point. A vote would be taken immediately on whether he should be required to resign his position.

At this point, barely 10 minutes into the meeting, Mr Lawrence left the room for the last time. He knew the result of the vote before it was even taken and went straight to his office to consult with trusted members of the executive he had created in his attempt to build a more commercial structure than the old boys' club deciding his fate in the board room.

Back in the boardroom, the 17 board members, representatives of the most powerful market-making firms in the City and some of the biggest institutional investors, a director of the Bank of England and a captain of industry, cast their votes. It was not unanimous, but there was never any doubt about the result.

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