Bank reshuffle raises issues at Burberry - Editor’s Letter

David Hellier
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Critics say that Peace should have dealt with the problems at Standard Chartered much earlier
Sir John Peace is widely admired in the City and until recently held positions as chair of both the emerging markets bank Standard Chartered and the fashion group Burberry.

Until last week, those who expected him to give up one of those posts so he could give more time to the one he kept, had assumed it would be the Burberry job. He had always privately hinted that the banking job was the one he most coveted.

Last week he sensationally presided over a boardroom bloodbath at Standard Chartered, where six directors were culled in the boardroom, including the chief executive Peter Sands. The sixth director to go is Peace himself, who will depart the board next year.

Critics say that Peace should have dealt with the problems at Standard Chartered much earlier. They say he has presided over investor discontent for too long and instead of taking action precipitately he let things fester to such an extent that it looked to many as if the situation had grown out of control.

Such indecision has led some to question his suitability at Burberry, even though he now has more time to devote to this role.

To be clear, there is no clamour for a change just yet. Chief executive Chris Bailey is said to be a fan, as are other board members. He is a popular and respected man in the boardroom and defended Bailey well over the chief executive’s controversial pay award even though (again) he might have left it late to do it.

But some institutional shareholders believe questions need to be asked of Peace. They want Bailey, who shuns financial meetings, to be more approachable and some think Peace, who has been chairman of the group for 13 years, is past his sell-by date.

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