GEC telecoms chief set to go

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The Independent Online
The chairman of GEC's telecoms division may be asked to resign today at what is likely to be a tense board meeting of the defence electronics giant, writes Russell Hotten.

Richard Reynolds, a GEC director and long-time executive at GPT, is thought to be behind criticism of the way the appointment of a successor to Lord Weinstock has been handled. Observers believe it is unlikely that Mr Reynolds can survive, and one source said it was possible he will go before he is pushed.

Concern that Lord Weinstock's son, Simon, would replace him as managing director at GEC is said to have led Mr Reynolds to begin a campaign among some institutional shareholders to stop the move. Mr Reynolds, 56, failed to gather much support among other GEC directors.

Mr Reynolds, who joined GEC in 1960 and was appointed a director in 1986, may have had ambitions to succeed Lord Prior as chairman, though the company ruled this out some time ago. Two weeks ago Lord Prior tried to kill growing speculation about the succession by saying a shortlist was close to being completed. Simon Weinstock was not thought to be one of the final candidates.

George Simpson, chief executive of Lucas, has emerged as one of the favourites to succeed Lord Weinstock. Lucas yesterday said the suggestion, which caused a dip in the share price, was just speculation.

Mr Simpson joined Lucas in April 1994 from British Aerospace, where he was deputy chief executive. He was credited with turning round Rover Cars before it was sold to BMW. He also worked closely with GEC, BAe's largest customer.

Keith Ashworth-Lord, analyst at Nikko Europe, said if Mr Simpson departed it could take the shine off the recent firm performance by Lucas shares. "He's very highly regarded by the City and his loss after just 18 months would be a blow," Mr Ashworth-Lord said.

Other candidates to replace Lord Weinstock are Sir Christopher Hogg, chairman of Courtaulds and Reuters, and Peter Levene, former procurement chief at the Ministry of Defence.

Today's GEC board meeting is also due to confirm the appointment as a non-executive director of Richard Needham, the former trade minister.