View from City Road: Sharpening up at Pilkington

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The Independent Online
After the recent blood-letting and carnage at East Midlands Electricity, it takes a doughty board to appoint Nigel Rudd, chairman of Williams Holdings, as a non-executive director. Judging by experience at East Midlands it is the corporate equivalent of introducing a fox into the family chicken coop. Swallowing any scruples it might have had, Pilkington, that most paternalistic of companies, has decided to take the plunge and ask him to replace Roger Hurn, chairman of Smiths Industries, who has retired from the board.

It was Mr Rudd, a cost-cutter and workaholic par excellence, who was responsible for the removal of John Harris as chairman of East Midlands.

Barely 10 days later he announced a comprehensive write-off of the power company's ill-conceived diversifications. Profits took a pounds 130m hit and more than 700 jobs were axed.

This is not to suggest that Pilkington, often criticised for ponderous management and bad acquisitions, is in need of similar treatment.

Under Roger Leverton, chief executive, much has been done of late to sharpen things up at Britain's oldest glass maker.

Mr Rudd's expertise in these areas will be valuable. He will in turn gain knowledge of Pilkington's international manufacturing businesses that will be useful to him at Williams. Sir Antony Pilkington might nonetheless be forgiven the odd glance in the rear- view mirror.