Boards ring the changes with new bosses

Marion Dakers
SEVERAL firms including publisher Pearson and insurance group Aviva are ringing in the new year with a change of chief executive.

Mark Wilson officially took the reins at Aviva yesterday, replacing Andrew Moss, who was felled by a shareholder rebellion over bonuses last May.

New Zealand-born Wilson, who spent four years at the top of Asian insurer AIA, has little experience of the European market, but has been cheered by analysts as a break with the past following a turbulent couple of years for Aviva.

He joins the firm as it embarks on a string of asset disposals in an attempt to turn itself into a “leaner, more agile beast”, in the words of chairman John McFarlane.

Pearson also parted ways with its chief executive yesterday, losing Dame Marjorie Scardino after 15 years in the role. She has been replaced by John Fallon, the former head of the firm’s education unit.

Scardino, who was the first female FTSE 100 chief executive, was fiercely protective of Pearson’s newspaper and magazine business.

She declared in 2002 that the firm would get rid of the Financial Times “over my dead body”, but successor Fallon is seen as more amenable to a sale.

Her departure means there are just three female chief executives in the FTSE 100: Angela Ahrendts at Burberry, Alison Cooper at Imperial Tobacco and Anglo American’s Cynthia Carroll, who is due to step down later this year.

There are a number of other boardroom departures on the cards during 2013. Virgin Atlantic boss Steve Ridgway is expected to leave this spring, while Rightmove founder Ed Williams is retiring at the end of April.

The Co-operative’s Peter Marks is due to depart in May, with Euan Sutherland from Kingfisher replacing him.

Also leaving a top job yesterday was Brendan Barber, who retired from the Trades Union Congress after 10 years. He is replaced by his deputy, Frances O’Grady.