Rebel BAE director Scaroni 'failed to attend key board meetings'

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The Independent Online

The boardroom row at BAE Systems, Britain's defence giant, deepened last night after The Independent obtained the board meeting attendance record of Paolo Scaroni, the rebel director critical of the company's leadership and strategy.

Mr Scaroni intends to quit the BAE board in May and is understood to be unhappy with the leadership of Mike Turner, the chief executive. He is also thought to be critical of the company's strategy of seeking a merger with a US partner.

However, according to official BAE sources, Mr Scaroni did not attend either of the company's two most important strategy board meetings to voice his concerns. These were held in held in November 2002 and November 2003.

BAE was also facing renewed speculation last night over who might replace Sir Richard Evans as chairman of the group. Sir Richard's contract expires in July.

Sir John Parker, the chairman of National Grid Transco, and Sir Peter Gershon, the head of the Office of Government Commerce were named in the weekend press as were Sir Colin Chandler, the chairman of easyJet and Lord Hollick, the head of United Business Media and a Labour peer.

Of the names mentioned so far analysts believe that Sir Colin Chandler is probably the most popular among the various factions. He also has less conflicts with other business commitments that might stop him doing the job.

Mr Scaroni's attendance record at BAE board meetings has become an increasingly controversial issue as his criticism of the way the board is running the company has emerged.

A BAE source said: "It seems Mr Scaroni is trying to stir up as much trouble as he can but his board attendance has been poor."

Mr Scaroni, who won widespread praise while the chief executive of Pilkington before he quit to become the boss of Enel, the Italian electricity group, attended eight of the past 15 BAE board and audit committee meetings.

The BAE source said Mr Scaroni did not attend any of those eight meetings for their full duration with him holding four of them partly on the telephone. "The two meetings held to focus purely on group strategy he did not attend," said the source.

Mr Scaroni could not be contacted last night to defend his attendance record.