Rupert Goodwins' Diary

Friday 27/04/01So, farewell then, Sir Iain Vallance. Having successfully turned BT into a massively over-exposed minority shareholder in the most troubled areas of the global telecommunications market - how do you fancy having billions sunk in the American and Japanese economy at the moment - while not minding the knitting chez lui, the company chairman has been sent packing by BT's own investors.

Friday
27/04/01 So, farewell then, Sir Iain Vallance. Having successfully turned BT into a massively over-exposed minority shareholder in the most troubled areas of the global telecommunications market - how do you fancy having billions sunk in the American and Japanese economy at the moment - while not minding the knitting chez lui, the company chairman has been sent packing by BT's own investors. Well, about time too. And the exciting new, world-shaking replacement ushered to shake up this tired old, quasi-monopolistic semi-governmental institution? Sir Christopher Bland, chairman of the BBC. How much of a cultural change can one expect when one replaces an Oxford-educated English graduate in his late 50s with an Oxford-educated history graduate in his early sixties? Much of the two CVs could easily be interchanged without looking out of place - a vice-chairmanship of the Bank of Scotland here, a directorship of National Provident there, one was Chairman of the Hammersmith and Queen Charlotte's Hospitals Special Health Authority, the other Vice President of The Princess Royal Trust for Carers. A knighthood apiece. And so on, and so forth. Obviously, the sort of chap the City trusts as chairman of BT is going to come from the gang of the great and the good, and they do tend to come with identikit profiles. Safe pair of hands in troubled times, sensible shoes well used to pacing the corridors of power. But when so many of BT's problems come from the company's massively inert, echoes-of-Empire statist culture, the remarkable thing is how inappropriate these old ways of thinking now look. At 62, Sir Christopher may best be thought of as a company doctor on a grand scale, coming in to fix the most pressing financial mayhem but not planning to stick around when the day finally comes that BT remembers it's a telecommunications company in the 21st century and starts to behave accordingly. For now, all eyes on Sir Peter...

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