Philips CEO is frontrunner for Vodafone

THE RACE to succeed Vodafone chairman Sir John Bond looks set to be won by Philips’ chief executive Gerard Kleisterlee.

Vodafone is believed to have shortlisted three people to succeed the mobile phone operator’s current chairman, with Kleisterlee topping the list as the British-based group’s preferred candidate.

The announcement of Sir John’s departure from Vodafone in September last year followed considerable investor unrest about the company’s acquisitions strategy.

Shareholders led by Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan attempted to remove him at the firm’s July annual meeting last year through a protest vote, when 6.5 per cent of shareholders voted against his re-election as chairman.

Sir John, who was formerly chairman of HSBC, was reported to have said he had always intended to step down at Vodafone.

Kleisterlee, who is stepping down as chief executive on 31 March, has worked at the Dutch firm for his entire career. For the past ten years he has helped to steer the electronics company to become a consumer giant as president, chief executive and chairman of the board.

He is also non-executive director at oil giant Royal Dutch Shell and a vice-chairman of the European Round Table of Industrialists, and also holds positions on a number of other large companies’ boards.

Philips yesterday saw weaker than expected fourth quarter results for 2010, leading to a drop in shares.

Net income at the world’s biggest lighting company rose to €463m (£395m) from €251m a year earlier. Analysts had estimated a €513m increase on average.

Vodafone is one of the UK’s biggest firms, with a market cap of almost £93bn.