Six Continents' chief tipped to chair Standard Chartered

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The Independent Online

Sir Ian Prosser, who has been chairman and chief executive of the hotel group Six Continents since 1987, is the front-runner to succeed Sir Patrick Gillam as chairman of Standard Chartered, the City banking group which operates mainly in Asia.

A spokesman for Standard Chartered declined to comment on Sir Ian's position, but stressed that the search for Sir Patrick's successor had been initiated by Sir Patrick himself.

He will be 70 in April 2003 and wanted to find someone who would be able to join the board at least a year earlier to enable a smooth handover to take place. Sir Patrick told the board of his wishes several months ago, enabling headhunters to be appointed.

The current plan is for Sir Ian, 58, to become non-executive deputy chairman of Standard Chartered in the new year, moving on to a full-time role when Sir Patrick steps down in 18 months. In that case, there will be a vacancy at the head of Six Continents, which was formerly the Bass brewing and hotels group.

Sir Ian is a chartered accountant, but has no other experience in the financial arena other than his involvement in Bass's corporate restructuring. He is also a director of BP and GlaxoSmithKline, the pharmaceuticals giant.

Negotiations over Sir Ian's contract with Standard Chartered may have been prolonged by speculation the bank's chief executive, Rana Talwar, wants to merge the group with a rival to achieve world-class status. Mr Talwar's former employer, the US-based Citigroup, has been mentioned as one possibility and both Barclays and Lloyds TSB have made no secret of the fact they would like to do a deal.