Mr Giordano, already a non-executive director of the industrial gases group, will be a part-time and non-executive chairman. Most of his time will be spent on British Gas matters. Patrick Rich, the current BOC chairman, is retiring earlier than planned because of ill health. He gave up the role of chief executive last November, when he was succeeded by Pat Dyer.
Mr Rich said: 'The stresses and burdens of the office have taken their toll in many ways, and in particular with my health.' He will leave at the beginning of April.
BOC said his departure had interrupted its succession policy, but it had not rushed into the decision: 'It is a carefully considered appointment. Mr Giordano knows the company back to front.' Mr Giordano's link with BOC stretches back to its 1978 takeover of Airco Inc, of which he was chief executive officer.
Analysts reacted favourably to the appointment. One said: 'Although it is certainly surprising, it will provide BOC with a quick and easy transition. Headhunting someone would have meant a period of instability.'
BOC said Mr Giordano's contract was still under discussion. He is also non-executive deputy chairman of Grand Metropolitan and a non-executive director of Lucas.
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