Peyrelevade takes on second disaster

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The Independent Online

Business Editor

When Jean Peyrelevade joined the board of Barings early last year, he would have had little idea that he was adding a second disaster area to his responsibilities.

Mr Peyrelevade is chairman of Credit Lyonnais, the scandal-ridden state- owned French bank that is in the process of being bailed out for the second time by its government.

He arrived at Barings shortly after he had been brought in to clean up the mess at Credit Lyonnais left by his predecessor at the international banking giant, but since then he has fought a constant battle with the government over how to fund rising losses.

His office said yesterday that he was on a week's holiday. Unlike his new-broom role at Credit Lyonnais, where he had no responsibility for the problems, Mr Peyrelevade was on board at Barings while the seeds of the disaster were being sown.

Though it has a number of eminent outsiders as non-executive members, the Barings board has a large proportion of present or former executives, and is not dominated by a list of the great and the good - the strategy of some banks.

Three other directors also joined the board from outside last year. The best known was probably Sir William Ryrie, a career international civil servant who ran the International Finance Corporation, a World Bank affiliate, until leaving to seek his fortune in the City.

Before the IFC he had been a senior Treasury official in the UK, responsible among other things for drawing up the rules that until recently governed public spending.

The other new arrivals, both non-executives, were Nicholas Barber, a businessman from the Ocean Group, the international transport company, and the more intriguing appointment of one of the best known of Japan's financiers, Yoshihiko Miyauchi, president of the world's largest leasing company, Orix.

The rest of the non-executive roll call included two former executive directors from the Baring family, Lord Ashburton, about to retire as chairman of BP, and Nicholas Baring, who is now chairman of Commercial Union, the insurance giant. Both had stepped down to non-executive roles.

Robert Malpas, the former ICI executive who chairs the Cookson Group is an outside non-executive, while Miles Rivet-Carnac, a naval officer who joined Barings as an executive, is, like his colleague Robin Broadley, another insider who stayed on as a non-executive. Finally, the US investment banker JP Birkelund is on the board as a representative of Dillon Read, in which Barings holds 40 per cent.