Harris quits as P&O Nedlloyd chief after boardroom 'divergence of views'

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The Independent Online

P&O Nedlloyd, the AngloDutch container shipping joint venture, yesterday lost its chief executive, Tim Harris, with immediate effect.

Lord Sterling, P&O chairman, said: "There was a divergence of views between Tim and the rest of the board on issues relating to the future management of the group, and he has therefore decided to pursue his career elsewhere."

Mr Harris , who also sat on the main P&O board, was once seen as a successor to Lord Sterling. Recently, it is thought, he was jockeying for position in the part of P&O that will remain after the group's cruise business is floated off in October.

It is thought that his departure was linked to his position in the remainder of P&O, and not to the financial performance of P&O Nedlloyd. It is understood that he will receive a payoff about equal to last year's salary and benefits, which amounted to £626,000.

P&O Nedlloyd, a joint venture with Royal Nedlloyd, reports first-quarter results today. The joint venture has performed poorly in recent years. It lost $51m (£32m) last year on turnover of $3.5bn, but it is expected to return to profits this year.

P&O said two years ago that it wanted to obtain a separate market listing for P&O Ned-lloyd, but that its losses had not allowed this.

P&O Nedlloyd will be part of the rump of P&O, along with its ports and ferries and the logistics businesses, when the highly-regarded cruise interests are put into a separate listed company later this year.

P&O launched a restructuring in 1998 that has seen it sell off its property interests, the Earl's Court exhibition centre business, and Bovis, its construction arm.

Mr Harris was appointed to the P&O board in 1986 and was made chief executive of P&O Nedlloyd in 1996. Analysts said his star had appeared to be waning in recent years and that he had had the misfortune to be put in charge of the struggling P&O Nedlloyd. He is to be replaced by a P&O director, Robert Wood.

P&O shares closed down 7.5p at 620p yesterday.