Lonrho delays vote on non-executives: Plans to improve company's accountability are held up

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The Independent Online
PLANS to introduce more accountability into Lonrho, the international trading conglomerate dominated by Roland 'Tiny' Rowland, stalled yesterday when Lonrho's board failed to approve the appointment of two non-executive directors.

A short statement from Lonrho signalled that the existing directors had disagreed about the appointments and had delayed a decision until 19 October.

A spokesman for Dieter Bock, the wealthy German businessman who has an 18.8 per cent shareholding in Lonrho and is joint chief executive working alongside Mr Rowland, said that some members of the board had not met the two directors and wanted to interview them.

Mr Bock has personally sought the services of Peter Harper, a director of Hanson, the Anglo- American conglomerate, and Stephen Walls, chairman of Albert Fisher, the food processing and distribution group.

Their appointments were expected to be confirmed at yesterday's board meeting but the delay is widely regarded in the City as an indication of the growing tension between Mr Bock and Mr Rowland over the running of the company.

Mr Rowland is known to have a long-standing contempt for non- executive directors, or indeed any directors, whom he has in the past likened to 'decorations on a Christmas tree'.

In the early 1970s he removed eight directors who had opposed his management style. Since then Lonrho has not had non-executives on its board.

Mr Rowland's intensely personal style of managing the company has led to reluctance by large City institutions to buy Lonrho's shares, which yesterday fell 1 2 p to 1241 2 p.

Mr Bock has sought to have non- executive directors appointed as part of the conditions for his pounds 130m participation in a Lonrho rights issue to salvage the debt-ridden group last year.

Since his arrival earlier this year Mr Bock has spent most of his time running the company while Mr Rowland has concentrated on dealing with the group's important African interests.

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