Bock poised to reform Lonrho: Introduction of non-executive directors may meet opposition from Rowland

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The Independent Online
TIGHTER management controls are to be imposed at Lonrho by Dieter Bock, the international trading group's largest shareholder, who was appointed joint chief executive with Roland 'Tiny' Rowland earlier this year.

The stage is set for a boardroom row as Mr Bock is on the point of pushing through changes that institutional investors have been seeking for years in order to curb Mr Rowland's flamboyant management style.

The board of Lonrho, at Mr Bock's insistence, is to be asked on Thursday to approve the appointment of two non-executive directors.

They are Peter Harper, a director of Hanson, the Anglo-American conglomerate, and Stephen Walls, chairman of Albert Fisher, the food processing and distribution group.

Mr Bock holds an 18.8 per cent stake in Lonrho, which he acquired at the beginning of the year. Since then, Mr Rowland has left him to run the company and carry out relatively modest deals, while he consolidates the group's main interests in Africa.

Mr Walls and Mr Harper, who could be paid pounds 30,000 a year, are expected to set up a new audit committee to review the group's financial performance.

In the past, executive directors who were qualified accountants worked with KPMG Peat Marwick, Lonrho's auditors, to ensure financial controls were in place and to evaluate company performance.

As part of the conditions for his pounds 130m participation in a rights issue to salvage the debt-ridden group last year, Mr Bock insisted that non-executive directors would have to come on to the Lonrho board.

Mr Rowland is known to have a long-standing contempt for non- executive directors, or indeed any directors, whom he has in the past likened to 'decorations on a Christmas tree'.

In the early 1970s, he successfully removed eight directors who had opposed his management style.

The boardroom row sparked an inquiry by the Department of Trade and Industry.

News of the potential arrival of non-executive directors sent Lonrho's share price up 3p to 124p.

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