Bunhill: Fishing for your non-executives

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WAKE up pro-Ned, Lunching Directors plc and all the other providers of suitable non-executive directors. Gordon Baxter has found a magic formula.

His successor as chairman of the family company is to be Joe Barnes, who retired as joint managing director of Sainsbury in 1990. He will preside over a board that will also include Sir Jan Lewando, formerly a director of M&S; Ronald Lagden, ex-chairman of Quaker Oats Europe; and David King, retired chairman of SmithKline Beecham.

Yet, for all the fame of the soups cooked up in the kitchen by Gordon's wife, Ena, over the years, Baxter's is still only a middle-sized company with sales last year of under pounds 40m. Moreover, it will remain firmly private, even though during his 48-year career Gordon reckons he received 172 'generous' takeover offers. Despite the non-executive heavyweights on the board, the firm will still be run by the family: the new managing director is Gordon's daughter Audrey, while son Andrew becomes vice chairman.

The key to Baxter's success in attracting a galaxy of non- execs came in the announcement of his retirement. After remarking that Sainsbury, like Baxter's, was 'still run essentially as a family business' and that Barnes was 'the right man, of the right age, with the right experience as well as being a soulmate', he added the crucial remark 'and a fisherman'.

For Baxter's lair is on the River Spey, conveniently close to some of Scotland's finest salmon fishing.

Mark you, the non-execs can say in their defence that they are joining an expanding company that not only makes soups (and those mini-jars of marmalade found on hotel breakfast trays) but also, wait for it, enjoys 'a dominant position in the branded beetroot business'.