Every share tipster swears by certain events as definite "sell" signals. When the directors hire their first corporate jet, you know its time to jettison the shares. For some, a logo re-design is an indication of a management losing its way. One pundit swears the appearance of a fish tank in reception is his cue to offload shares. But it seems the appointment of a former minister to the board ranks above them all as the ultimate danger signal.
Lord Nolan, busy looking into sleaze at Westminster, might take a glance at this week's Investor's Chronicle, which contains an intriguing analysis of the performance of companies that invite former ministers onto their boards. Nine times out of 10, the result is a lousy share price performance. During Lord Tebbit's seven-year tenure at BET, its shares have underperformed the all-share index by 71 per cent. His time at Sears has co-incided with a 57 per cent underperformance. GEC's shares have underperformed by 55 per cent over the decade Lord Prior has chaired the company. David Howell's time at Trafalgar House and Queen's Moat Houses produced similarly dismal results There are some outperforming ministers: Lord Lawson at Barclays (up 7 per cent), Lord Young at Cable & Wireless (up 18 per cent), Lord Walker at Smith New Court (up 319 per cent). But most do not: look at Lord Gowrie at Ladbroke (down 48 per cent ); Sir Kenneth Baker at Hanson (down 9 per cent); and Lord Parkinson at Usborne (down 70 per cent).