Corbett named new chairman of Durex maker SSL

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The Independent Online

Gerald Corbett, the former chief executive of Railtrack, is to add to his burgeoning portfolio with the chairmanship of SSL, the group behind Durex condoms and Scholl scandals that held abortive bid talks with Reckitt Benckiser in 2003.

Gerald Corbett, the former chief executive of Railtrack, is to add to his burgeoning portfolio with the chairmanship of SSL, the group behind Durex condoms and Scholl scandals that held abortive bid talks with Reckitt Benckiser in 2003.

Unlike Gerry Watts, SSL's chief executive, Mr Corbett will not stand to gain financially from any future sale of the business. Mr Watts' contract was recently re-written to ensure a bumper payout if the company, which is the subject of frenzied bid speculation, is acquired.

Mr Corbett, who also chairs Woolworths and Holmes Place, the privately owned health club group, will take up his role at SSL in August. He replaces Ian Martin, 70, who is standing down after the company's annual meeting in July after four years in the post.

Asked whether Mr Corbett anticipated a short tenure as chairman given all the bid rumours, he said: "In one sense everything's for sale and nothing's for sale. The business has a long history and it will be around for a long time."

As well as Reckitt Benckiser, the Anglo-Dutch group behind brands such as Vanish and Bonjela, the US healthcare conglomerate Johnson & Johnson had been tipped as a bidder for SSL.

Mr Corbett said he had a "traditional chairman's contract" and would receive "around the same fee" as Mr Martin, who was paid £175,000 in the year to March 2004. Mr Corbett added: "Whereas if you're a chief executive, you've got to be incentivised to create shareholder value. The main brief is to grow profits but all management, if the right deal comes along, will look at it."

The company's new annual report, which will detail Mr Watts' new contract and Mr Martin's up-to-date salary, will be published in a few weeks.

Mr Corbett is a non-executive director of Greencore, the Irish sandwich maker. He was previously finance director at Grand Metropolitan, the drinks group, and Redland, the property company.

"SSL has been through some challenging times and come out the other side. It has got some excellent brands, strong management and some great growth opportunities." Asked whether Woolworths would start stocking any of SSL's brands, he said: "No."

Mr Watts said Mr Corbett, who was suggested for the post by an external headhunter, had a "strong background in international, consumer-facing businesses". One of SSL's big plans for its Scholl scandals is to transform them from a health to a fashion product.

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