Electra bows to pressure for female directors

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The Independent Online

Electra Partners, the private equity group, has bowed to the corporate governance lobby and shaken up its board with the appointment of its first female non-executive directors.

The company will today announce the appointment of Colette Bowe, the former chief executive of the Personal Investment Authority, and Lucinda Weber, who has more than 20 years experience in the private equity industry.

Electra, which is chaired by Sir Brian Williamson, is anxious to rebut criticism that its directors have been on the board for too long. Four of its six directors have been on the board for more than 10 years, including Sir Brian, who joined the company in 1994.

The company has previously defended its decision to keep the status quo in its boardroom on the grounds that it first needed to deliver on the promises it made shareholders back in 1999 when it fought off a hostile bid from 3i. Since then it has returned more money to shareholders - the equivalent of £1.3bn - than 3i was offering at the time.

Electra's newest recruits will take up their positions on the 1 March. Sir Brian said that after a short period of transition "some existing directors will retire from the board". He said the company was still seeking a third independent director to join the company before its interim results in June.

Lord King, the former secretary of state for defence, would be a prime candidate to step down as he has been on Electra's board since 1992. Ronald Armstrong and Peter Williams have both been directors since 1994.

Ms Bowe, who has split her career between the City and Whitehall, also sits on the boards of Morgan Stanley and Axa Framlington.

As a civil servant, she was involved in the Westland helicopter furore, which nearly brought down the Thatcher government.

She is also chairman of Ofcom's consumer panel and the council of Queen Mary, University of London, and is a member of the statistics commission.

Ms Webber spent most of her career at Barclays Private Equity. She now works as a consultant in the industry.