BAA names Rudd as new chairman

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The embattled airports operator BAA yesterday drafted in City grandee Sir Nigel Rudd as chairman as the embattled company attempts to put a lid on torrent of criticism over the state of its airports.

Sir Nigel, 61, deputy chairman of Barclays, takes over from Rafael del Pino, head of BAA's owner Ferrovial, who was forced to step in as interim chairman when Marcus Agius became head of Barclays in December.

The serial non-executive director admitted the job was "the most challenging role that I have every undertaken". He said: "BAA faces a number of well-documented challenges, but I am heartened that it has supportive long-term shareholders and a first-class chief executive in Stephen Nelson. We need to transform Britain's biggest airports throughout the coming years. I believe it can be done and I am determined to get the results our passengers deserve."

It is thought that Sir Nigel received assurances that he will be able to run the BAA board along the lines of a plc without having to constantly look over his shoulder to Madrid.

The high-profile appointment comes just a day after the company was in damage-limitation mode again as it sought to quash rumours of 2,000 back office job losses as part of an efficiency programme. On the same day, BAA – which has refused to put a figure on the job losses but said it did not recognise the 2,000 figure – announced that Donald Dowds, the director of safety, was leaving. He is the latest in a string of senior departures from the company since the Ferrovial led £10.1bn takeover last year.

BAA has faced criticism over the state of Heathrow Airport, with City Minister, Kitty Ussher, warning that it could threaten the Britain's pre-eminent financial services industry and London mayor Ken Livingstone saying that it "shames" the city.

Sir Nigel will be joined on the BAA board by Lord Stevens, the former Metropolitan Police Commissioner.