Barclays' Sir Peter bows to pressure to quit post early

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Sir Peter Middleton, the chairman of Barclays, is to leave the bank in September, three months earlier than planned, to allow a boardroom reshuffle and the appointment of John Varley as chief executive.

Sir Peter Middleton, the chairman of Barclays, is to leave the bank in September, three months earlier than planned, to allow a boardroom reshuffle and the appointment of John Varley as chief executive.

Mr Varley's appointment, and the elevation of the current chief executive Matt Barrett to chairman, had been announced as long ago as last October, and the 14-month handover period has been widely criticised. Shareholders and other board members are believed to have put pressure on Sir Peter to go early.

In a further shake-up, Sir Nigel Rudd, the chairman of Boots and Pilkington and currently the senior non-executive on the board at Barclays, looks set to become deputy chairman of the bank.

Sir Peter, 71, has been on the Barclays board since 1991 and in his current post since 1999, but has been looking increasingly redundant after it emerged in April that Mr Varley had taken control of the whole Barclays group at an operational level. Nearly all of Barclays' divisional heads now report directly to Mr Varley. This has meant Mr Barrett has become, in effect, an executive chairman, leaving little room for Sir Peter.

A former permanent secretary to the Treasury, Sir Peter stood in as chief executive for a year following the abrupt departure of Martin Taylor and the failure of his replacement, Michael O'Neill, to join the company because of ill-health. He moved up to chairman in 1999.

The announcement that Mr Barrett would become chairman brought an end to months of speculation on the future management team, but the decision to leave the handover to Mr Varley for more than a year was seen as a recipe for confusion. Mr Varley has been keen to get his full powers and has already signalled intentions to pursue an acquisition strategy, particularly in the United States.

Mr Barrett's move to become chairman flies in the face of corporate governance guidelines. The Higgs code on boardroom practice says chief executives should not go on to become chairman of the same company, as the chairman should be an independent figure. Sir Nigel's appointment as deputy chairman will also raise eyebrows. Although not in contravention of the code - Higgs argues only that no one should hold two FTSE 100 chairmanships - Sir Nigel will be adding a deputy chairmanship to the top post at two companies worth more than £1bn. At Barclays he replaces Sir Brian Jenkins, who joined when Barclays bought the Woolwich in 2000.

Comments