BBC Trust go for Rona Fairhead – its first female chair

Oliver Smith
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Rona Fairhead
Former Financial Times Group boss Rona Fairhead will become the new chairman of the BBC Trust, the government announced yesterday.
Yesterday culture secretary Sajid Javid announced Fairhead was the preferred candidate to replace Lord Patten, who stepped down in May due to ill health after three turbulent years overseeing the broadcaster.
Fairhead, 53 and a graduate of Harvard Business School, would be the first woman to chair the Trust, an operationally independent body responsible for overseeing the BBC.
Reacting to the news, she said she was “under no illusions about the significance and the enormity of the job” and was “excited” to take on the role.
“The BBC is a great British institution packed with talented people, and I am honoured to have the opportunity to be the chairman of the BBC Trust,” she said.
Fairhead is currently an independent non-executive director of HSBC, non-executive chairman of HSBC North America and a non-executive director of PepsiCo.
The ultimate decision on who will be the Trust’s next chair will come down to the Queen on a recommendation from Sajid Javid.
Furthermore, Fairhead will face questioning from MPs on the Media Select Committee on 9 September.
“Rona Fairhead is an exceptional individual with a highly impressive career history. Her experience of working with huge multinational corporations will undoubtedly be a real asset at the BBC Trust,” said Javid on the selection. “I have no doubt she will provide the strong leadership the position demands and will prove to be a worthy champion of licence fee payers.”
The BBC said: “We welcome the announcement of Rona Fairhead as the preferred candidate for chair of the BBC Trust. We will comment further once the process is complete.”


Fairhead spent 12 years at Pearson, including seven as chairman and chief executive of the Financial Times Group, before departing in 2013 after missing out on the position of Pearson chief executive following the appointment of John Fallon.
As head of the Financial Times Group she oversaw a number of the group’s large strategic sales, including French newspaper group Les Echos and its 50 per cent stake in FTSE International.
Before Pearson, Fairhead held a number of positions in Bombardier’s Aerospace division, and at Imperial Chemical Industries, a specialty chemicals company, where she ultimately served as executive vice president of strategy and group financial control.
She currently sits on the boards of a number of blue-chip companies, including as an independent non-executive director of banking group HSBC, non-executive chairman of HSBC North America and a non-executive director of PepsiCo.
Fairhead, who was also linked recently to the chairmanship of Barclays, was awarded a CBE in 2012 and was appointed a British Business Ambassador in 2014. She was a non-executive member of the Cabinet Office board but has now stood down due to her selection as the preferred candidate for the BBC role.

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