View from City Road: Lucas drops another one

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TO LOSE one director may be a misfortune but to lose two in the space of six months looks like a great deal more than carelessness on the part of Lucas Industries.

First David Hankinson quit as finance director. Then Tony Edwards, 47, appointed group managing director only in March, is off to TI Group with a view to taking over its newly formed Dowty aerospace division. Mr Edwards' appointment was meant to solve the question of who would succeed Sir Tony Gill as chief executive before his retirement as chairman in 1994.

In view of the recommendations of the Cadbury committee on the splitting of the roles of chairman and chief executive, a clear line of succession is generally welcomed by the City. It shows the company is confident in its plans for the future.

Barely had the back of a pounds 90m restructuring programme been broken, with 2,750 fresh redundancies and extensive disposals, than Mr Edwards lost out in a power struggle with Sir Tony. The man groomed for succession was no longer thought suitable and was sent back to running Lucas's aerospace side. Details are thin on the ground but this switch of allegiance implies that the newly reorganised Lucas board led by Sir Tony has been guilty of incredible misjudgement.

Now Lucas has neither a budding chief executive nor anyone to run its vitally important but hard-pressed aerospace division. No wonder that large Lucas shareholders, including its own employee pension fund, have been demanding reassurance.

Mr Edwards' expertise and relative youth will be a boon to TI Dowty, allowing the redoubtable chief executive, Sid Taylor, 58, to take up a head office post. Lucas's loss is almost certainly TI's gain.

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