Mark Wilson: turnround specialist
“I do turnrounds,” Mark Wilson said shortly after his appointment as Aviva’s chief executive in 2013. It was just as well given the to-do list — in the wake of Andrew Moss’s unpopular tenure, capital needed boosting, costs needed cutting and the share price decline needed reversing. And do it all he did.
But after spending five years currying favour with investors, Wilson has just performed a less positive turnround. He has caused anger among investors, first with his aggressive plan to redeem “irredeemable” preference shares, and then with a bizarre decision to take a board seat at rival asset manager BlackRock. City Insider’s specialist mood assessor blames three triggers. 1. His pay, to be disclosed next week, may still feel low. Few would bet on a reversal of last year’s 20 per cent cut. 2. Wilson’s complex long-distance family life has been compounded by a 2016 divorce. 3. Friction on the board over the preference shares plan.
If Wilson is to recover the headway he made with investors since 2013, it’s time for another turnround.
Alexander Nix: double meaning
The Lex column points out that if a business has “Cambridge” or “Oxford” in its name, the risk of dodginess is correspondingly raised and cites the prevalence of third-rate English language colleges. As regards Cambridge Analytica, its unusually named chief Alexander Nix and the whole Facebook data scandal aside, City Insider takes a different view, harbouring fond memories of Oxford Instruments maths sets, stout but stylish Morris Oxfords and Austin Cambridges and, of course, the Oxford English Dictionary. That dictionary (in the 1991 edition on City Insider’s shelf) contains a couple of apposite definitions of Nix. 1. nothing, denial, refusal, deny, reject. 2. warning that a person in authority is approaching. Neat.
Edi Truell: retiring sort
The first pension consolidation fund was launched in the UK this week, promising an “affordable” solution for employers wanting to offload costly pension schemes. The “Pension Superfund” is backed by Edi Truell, the City financier and former pension adviser to Boris Johnson. Truell, who made his fortune as founder of Duke Street Capital and also launched the Pension Insurance Corporation, has a reputation for bold ideas — some good, some bad. In 2016, he stepped down from Tungsten, the invoicing company he founded, after a failed attempt to take over the assets of the struggling group. A
t the helm of the Pension Superfund is Alan Rubenstein, who up until January was chief exec of the Pension Protection Fund, an industry-funded scheme that pays pensions if an employer goes bust. He’ll be familiar with Truell’s ambitious ideas. Last year, Truell hatched a proposal to keep Tata’s giant £15bn UK pension fund out of the PPF, though the British Steel Pension Scheme’s trustees rejected his plan as too risky. Here’s hoping the PSF proves a more effective partnership.
Chris Grigg: diverse selection
Last week’s Mipim property shindig in Cannes was a shadow of its old self. The Presidents Club scandal made sure of that. Though an array of sex workers lined the esplanade at night, the usual party yachts were all but absent. A string of events were cancelled. The only sign of old Mipim was the all-male attendance at certain events. Chris Grigg, British Land’s chief exec, said he was passionate about boosting women in property but said it wasn’t “quite as easy as it was six months ago”.
He should know. He’s just lost a female FD, the respected Lucinda Bell (replaced by a man). And BL’s gender pay gap? The worst among peers, at 42 per cent.
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