BTR may go outside for new chairman

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ONE of Britain's largest companies, BTR, is considering appointing an outsider as chairman when Sir Owen Green retires next year after nine years in the top job and 26 years with the company.

Bringing in an outsider would represent a break with tradition at BTR, where Sir Owen has consistently spoken out against outside directors.

He believes that current and former executives are better placed to run the company than outsiders who are not familiar with the BTR approach.

All five non-executive directors have worked for the company before. They include John Cahill, recently appointed chairman of British Aerospace, and Norman Ireland, chairman of Bowater.

Sir Owen, who will be 68 next year, is due to stand down at the annual meeting in May under the company's articles of association. One investor said: 'It is hard to imagine BTR without him.'

One alternative to bringing in an outsider is to combine the roles of chief executive and chairman. Alan Jackson is the present chief executive.

But Sir Owen's opposition to combining the top jobs is even greater than to outside directors. He considers this the most important principle of structuring a board.

Other non-executives include Hugh Laughland, who is a director of Wace, the subject of an inquiry by the Serious Fraud Office, Lionel Stammers, a director of Bullough, and Gordon Yardley, a director of Dunlop Slazenger, part of BTR.

Sir Owen has a large number of supporters in the City as BTR has an above-average record. Profits have grown from pounds 590m to pounds 917m over the past five years.