Newlands 'shocked' at irregularities

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The Independent Online

David Newlands knew, when he arrived as Tomkins' non-executive chairman in June after Greg Hutchings was forced to split his roles, that he would have a strong minded chief executive on his hands. But nothing prepared him for what he was to discover about the standards of corporate governance - or rather lack of them - in the boardroom.

David Newlands knew, when he arrived as Tomkins' non-executive chairman in June after Greg Hutchings was forced to split his roles, that he would have a strong minded chief executive on his hands. But nothing prepared him for what he was to discover about the standards of corporate governance - or rather lack of them - in the boardroom.

"I was shocked when I discovered the scale of the irregularities," he said. "I was worried when the claims first began to emerge at the annual shareholders' meeting in September and from there on things got progressively worse."

For an executive used to the hair-shirt environment at Arnold Weinstock's GEC, where he was finance director, Tomkins was a particular eye-opener.

Mr Newlands recounts how he once accompanied Lord Weinstock to a Far East nation where GEC was trying to drum up military business. At the request of his boss, Mr Newlands agreed to play a round of golf with the defence minister of the country in question.

They agreed to wager £40 on the outcome of the game. Although Mr Newlands is an avid golfer, his opponent was better and duly won the game and the bet. When Mr Newlands asked Lord Weinstock if he could submit an expenses claim for the £40 he had lost, Lord Weinstock asked him whether he would have donated his winnings to GEC had the game gone the other way. Mr Newlands said he would not have. In that case, said Lord Weinstock with a grin, he could forget about filing any expenses.

Mr Newlands' task now is to instill the same sort of culture at Tomkins.

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