View from City Road: Corporate soap runs on and on

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The Independent Online
Sir John Leahy, a former British ambassador to South Africa and France, will need all his diplomatic skills to succeed in his new job as the interim chairman of Lonrho.

With the two joint chief executives, Tiny Rowland and Dieter Bock, still at each other's throats, it has proved impossible to find any kind of suitable outsider to come in as chairman. Sir John is a stopgap until the situation is resolved.

He cannot be relishing the role. Mr Bock hopes to persuade Tiny to leave by Christmas but Mr Rowland seems as determined to stay as ever. The only way he will be leaving Lonrho, he is prone to say, is in a box.

Everything has its price, however. If Mr Bock were prepared to pay a substantial premium over the market price for Tiny's remaining shares in Lonrho, worth about pounds 65m, and the severance terms were acceptable, he might be prepared to go.

Neither seems likely. Unbelievably for a company that is meant to be the very antithesis of good corporate governance, Tiny has no contract, which means the company is under no obligation to him at all.

No gold-plated pay-offs for Tiny, it seems. Nor, if you believe Mr Rowland, does Mr Bock have the money to buy him out. And if he does have the money it will do him no good anyway, Tiny claims in moments of bravado. Tiny would only buy back the shares in the stock market.

Britain's longest-running corporate soap shows no sign of ending. Poor Sir John.