Outlook: Antics in the boardroom

Outlook nn delays to BA's american link, ionica's problems and why newcastle's head-hunting will be hard

NEWCASTLE United are going to be spending the close season in the transfer market. They already needed some new talent on the field. But now they are also looking to hire a couple of non-executive directors, one of whom can act as chairman of the plc.

Yesterday's departure of the midfield duo of Sir Terence Harrison and John Mayo demonstrates that if corporate governance did indeed score a victory in March when Douglas Hall and Freddie Shepherd were eased out, it was at best a pyrrhic one.

Shareholders and fans (largely one in the same at Newcastle) might wonder what is going on.

Although the two men whose antics in a Spanish brothel caused so much angst, have gone, little else has changed. Cameron Hall Developments, Mr Hall's company, and Shepherd Offshore, still control a majority of the shares and their nominees sit on the board.

Neither man looks in any hurry to reduce that shareholding to under 50 per cent - the promise that was dangled before shareholders in March. Meanwhile, there is just one independent non-executive left on the board - and that is the accident prone Denis Cassidy. This board, laden down as it is with Hall and Shepherd nominees or employees, is the one that will now seek a new chairman.

The company says rather smugly that it will need to be someone who passes the "smell test" If anything, it is the candidates who are more likely to turn their noses up.

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