Reed's hunt for new chief hits fresh setback

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The Independent Online
REED ELSEVIER, the Anglo-Dutch publishing giant, yesterday added another chapter to its troubled history by revealing that the leading candidate for the chief executive post had dropped out at the last minute, sparking the resignation of the chairman and one non-executive director.

In a statement issued after the stock market closed, Reed said its eight- month quest for a chief executive would continue, following the collapse of talks with the leading contender.

Reed's top choice for the post, believed to be Johathan Newcombe, the chief executive of the US publishing house Simon & Schuster, is understood to have refused the company's offer after meetings with Reed's top directors.

The company declined to comment on rumours that the candidate was unhappy at some of the pay and conditions proposed by the group.

The failure to clinch a deal with Reed's top choice for the post triggered the departure of Peter Vinken, the chairman of the supervisory board, and Loek van Vollenhoven, a fellow non-executive director.

The two are understood to have been angry at the way the company handled the recruitment process. They are believed to have clashed with the other members of the the recruitment committee, Morris Tabaksblat, Sir Christopher Lewinton, and David Webster. Mr Vinken, who was set to retire next week, will be replaced by Mr Tabaksblat.

The collapse of the talks is a serious blow for Reed's attempt to replace its cumbersome dual board structure with a unitary board run by a single chairman and a single chief executive. The current co-chief executives, Nigel Stapleton and Herman Bruggink, are now expected to remain at the helm until a new chief executive is found. Last week it was revealed that the two would receive bonuses of pounds 140,000 if they stayed on at least until next month.