Hanson family tightens its grip

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The Independent Online

Lord Hanson has tightened his family's grip on the industrial conglomerate he founded, with the promotion of both his niece's husband and his son to senior board positions at the Hanson group.

The changes have been triggered by the retirement at the end of this month of Martin Taylor, the long-serving vice-chairman who joined the group in 1969 and became the public voice of Hanson in the 1980s.

Christopher Collins, 55, a former jockey who is married to Lord Hanson's niece, will move up from corporate development director to be vice-chairman. In that position, he will be second-in-command to deputy chairman and chief executive Derek Bonham, the man earmarked to succeed Lord Hanson as executive chairman when he retires in January 1997.

Replacing Mr Collins in charge of corporate development is Robert Hanson, Lord Hanson's 34-year old polo-playing son, who has been on the board since September 1992

Mr Taylor, who had open-heart surgery last year, will continue to act as adviser to the group. Anthony Cotton, another board member, will also step down.

Hanson's shares edged up just 0.5p to 208.75p on yesterday's news. Countering any suggestion the management changes involved favouritism, Mr Bonham said the two men being promoted had been in their jobs for quite some time. In a reference to the pounds 2.5bn acquisition of Eastern electricity group, which went unconditional yesterday, he said: "Christopher Collins has been with us since 1989 and, indeed, been instrumental in the Eastern bid. He has been shadowing Martin Taylor for 12 months now."

Mr Collins' decision to join the group in Australia in 1989 had been almost incidental to the family connection.

Mr Collins will in future be the sole vice-chairman as David Clark, who held the post jointly with Mr Taylor, has not been replaced since leaving to head US Industries, the American arm demerged earlier this year. The intention is that Mr Collins will deputise for Mr Bonham while he is abroad.

Robert Hanson, whose previous career included a spell at the merchant bank NM Roths- child, has since last year been in charge of the search for expansion opportunities in the Far East. He has worked under Mr Collins for the past five years.

A number of long-serving Hanson executives have left over the past year or so. Mr Bonham said they were "gradually getting a younger team in place", with two key appointees earlier this year - Bill Landuyt new head of the US operation, Hanson Industries, and Andrew Dougal, new group finance director, both in their early 40s. Lord White, the co-founder, died last month.