Nigel Rudd is chosen to `keep eye on' Pilkington

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The Independent Online
Pilkington confirmed yesterday that Nigel Rudd is to take over from Sir Antony Pilkington as chairman of the glass maker in July. He will be the St Helens-based company's first chairman from outside the founding family.

Sir Antony, who plans to step down in July when he will be 60, said: "I am delighted that Nigel Rudd, with his wide experience in international industry, will succeed me. He will be the first non-executive chairman and the first from outside the company."

The appointment follows the recruitment three years ago of Roger Leverton, chief executive, from RTZ. He was brought into Pilkington to sort out a number of unsuccessful diversifications and to refocus the company on the core glass-making areas where it has technical leadership.

Mr Rudd said he planned to spend two or three days a month at Pilkington. He will not be paid for his work but Williams Holdings, the industrial conglomerate where he is executive chairman, will be paid an undisclosed figure as compensation for the loss of Mr Rudd's time.

The stock market reacted warmly, adding 5p to Pilkington shares, which closed at 158p.

Mr Rudd, who is also chairman of East Midlands Electricity and Pendragon, the motor dealer spun off from Williams, said the transformation of Williams from an acquisitive, fast-growing group to a more stable, diversified conglomerate meant he had time available to work elsewhere.

Mr Rudd said he saw his task as keeping an eye on Pilkington to ensure the company stuck to what it was good at and was not tempted again by diversifications into areas it did not understand. There are similarities with East Midlands, where a rash of ill-advised diversifi-cations led to a £130m write-off last May, the loss of 700 jobs after radical pruning of the company's contracting, security and retailing arms, and the departure of John Harris, its previous chairman.

Having stopped the rot in East Midlands' subsidiaries - the closure of the retailing arm is expected to be the next stage in the rationalisation - Mr Rudd then guided the company last October to an imaginative and equitable version of the share buybacks then being put together by nearly all the regional electricity companies as a way of using up their excess cash flow.

The East Midlands version, a special dividend to all shareholders rather than the acquisition of shares from a handful of favoured institutions, was seen as fair to investors and employees, the value of whose share options were safeguarded.

Pilkington, whose shares outperformed following the corrective action of Mr Leverton, have fallen back over the past 12 months as the market waited for earnings growth to catch up with a demanding rating. Despite doing the right things, the company still operates in difficult markets.