Climax in C&W power struggle

MARY FAGAN

Industrial Correspondent

The power struggle at Cable & Wireless will reach a climax today at hastily convened meetings between the group's directors that could result in the departure of the chief executive, James Ross. He is expected to go unless Lord Young of Graffham, the chairman, is ousted or reduced to a less influential, non-executive role.

The extraordinary developments follow months of speculation, culminating in a statement last week that Lord Young will stay as executive chairman until his 65th birthday in February 1997. The announcement outraged Mr Ross, who is said to have approached non-executive directors weeks ago to say that he could no longer work with Lord Young.

Cable & Wireless' executive directors will meet this morning with non- executives led by Win Bischoff, chairman of Schroders, to demand an end to the chaos. There is a consensus that the executives will back Mr Ross, who will not attend the meeting. This afternoon the non-executive directors are expected to attempt alone to resolve the acrimonious dispute.

One senior executive said: "Cable & Wireless needs unambiguous, unequivocal and strong management. Starting from that base it is extremely difficult to imagine Lord Young and James Ross can co-exist."

He added: "If we have to turn on its head what was announced last week then we have got to be prepared to do that. The present position is unsustainable." He went on to warn that there is a worry that unless something is done, the company will become vulnerable to takeover "for all the wrong reasons".

Those favouring Lord Young say that he has the support of the non-executives and that Mr Ross will be forced to knuckle under or quit. But there are conflicting views on the balance of opinion and, in particular, on whether Mr Ross has won backing from Ulrich Hartmann, the head of Veba, C&W's European partner, which has a 10.48 per cent stake in the group.

One insider said that Mr Ross is increasingly irritated by what he sees as Lord Young's interference with day-to-day running, and by deals he has struck, which Mr Ross considers outside the main thrust of the group. The chief executive's drive is to build a tripartite structure based on Asia, the US - where C&W is in negotiations with Nynex - and on Europe.

But there is also a view that Cable & Wireless needs Lord Young's ability to open doors. According to a former C&W employee: "David Young is an affable wheeler-dealer while James Ross is a scientific manager with no strategic vision - a speedy tailor for the 1990s." He added that Linus Cheung, the executive director in charge of C&W's all-important Hong Kong Telecom arm, would be in favour of any solution that gave him more autonomy. "He complained at one point that he had to get permission from London to go to the bathroom," he said.

A key problem for Mr Bischoff is that, should the battle end in Mr Ross's departure, there is no obvious successor within the group. Duncan Lewis, who in September resigned abruptly as chief executive of C&W's Mercury Communications subsidiary after only nine months in the job, was seen as a natural successor. Ironically, Mr Lewis left because he did not see eye-to-eye with the man he was apparently destined to succeed.

Insiders say the dark horse is Rod Olsen, the C&W finance director, who is highly respected. But one said that Mr Lewis, who is credited with rapidly turning around Mercury's fortunes, could be recalled - he has yet to take up another post.

News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Sport
Danny Welbeck's Manchester United future is in doubt
footballGunners confirm signing from Manchester United
Sport
footballStriker has moved on loan for the remainder of the season
Sport
footballFeaturing Bart Simpson
PROMOTED VIDEO
New Articles
Olivia Colman topped the list of the 30 most influential females in broadcasting
tv
News
Kelly Brook
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
News
The five geckos were launched into space to find out about the effects of weightlessness on the creatures’ sex lives
i100
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Sport
Andy Murray celebrates a shot while playing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
TennisWin sets up blockbuster US Open quarter-final against Djokovic
Arts and Entertainment
Hare’s a riddle: Kit Williams with the treasure linked to Masquerade
booksRiddling trilogy could net you $3m
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
news Video - hailed as 'most original' since Benedict Cumberbatch's
News
i100
Life and Style
The longer David Sedaris had his Fitbit, the further afield his walks took him through the West Sussex countryside
lifeDavid Sedaris: What I learnt from my fitness tracker about the world
Arts and Entertainment
Word master: Self holds up a copy of his novel ‘Umbrella’
booksUnlike 'talented mediocrity' George Orwell, you must approach this writer dictionary in hand
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

SQL Implementation Consultant (VB,C#, SQL, Java, Eclipse, integ

£40000 - £50000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: SQL Impl...

Head of IT (Windows, Server, VMware, SAN, Fidessa, Equities)

£85000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Head of IT (Windows, Server, VMware, SAN, ...

Technical Software Consultant (Excel, VBA, SQL, JAVA, Oracle)

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: You will not be expected to hav...

SQL DBA/Developer

£500 per day: Harrington Starr: SQL DBA/Developer SQL, C#, VBA, Data Warehousi...

Day In a Page

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering