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Reed Elsevier to scrap twin boards

REED ELSEVIER, the Anglo-Dutch publishing group, yesterday unveiled a boardroom shake-up in which its two co-chairmen will make way for a new chief executive recruited from outside the company.

Meanwhile, the company hinted that it could abandon its legal structure, in which holding companies quoted in London and Amsterdam hold roughly equal shares in an operating company.

Reed is to scrap its twin board structure where Reed International and Elsevier, the English and Dutch holding companies, each appoint two executives to Reed Elsevier's board. In its place Reed will create a single board.

Morris Tabaksblat, now chairman and chief executive of the Dutch arm of Unilever, the consumer goods group, will take over as chairman after Reed's annual meeting in April next year.

The board will also have one chief executive. However, in a surprise move Nigel Stapleton and Herman Bruggink, Reed's executive co-chairmen, said they would not be putting their names forward for the job.

Mr Stapleton said the decision to stand down had been a personal one. "If one was to put one's name forward one would have to make a commitment for some years going forward," he said, adding that he had spent 12 years at Reed after 18 years with Unilever. He stressed he had not made plans to leave Reed and would be staying until a new chief executive arrived.

Mr Bruggink is believed to have decided that, with a Dutch chairman, Reed's chief executive should be of a different nationality.

Analysts suggested that Mr Bruggink and Mr Stapleton may have fallen out. "I really got the feeling the personal chemistry wasn't great at all," one said. Another predicted that both would leave Reed once the new structure was in place.

But Mr Stapleton strongly denied that there had been any clash between himself and Mr Bruggink. He added that, after a period of intense corporate activity, Reed needed someone with marketing skills to take the business forward.

"There are unlikely to be any more divestments," he said. "It's more a question of building the company and getting the most out of its portfolio."