News Column

City high-flyer is appointed as new chair of BBC Trust: Rona Fairhead was government's choice for role

August 31, 2014

Jamie Doward



She is a high-flyer in both the literal and metaphoric sense and now takes on one of the most difficult jobs in the media.

Rona Fairhead, who sits on the boards of a number of blue-chip companies, and was made a British business ambassador by the prime minister, was last night announced as the new chair of the BBC Trust.

Sajid Javid, secretary of state for culture, was today expected to announce that she was the government's preferred candidate to fill the slot, which has become vacant following the decision by Lord Patten to stand down in May on health grounds.

A long-term non-executive director of banking group HSBC - which paid a fine of $1.9bn in 2012 to settle US money-laundering accusations involving Mexican and Colombian drug cartels - Fairhead has an MBA from Harvard Business School. She was selected as the government's preferred candidate following what it said was "an open recruitment process", overseen by an independent public appointments assessor. She will appear before the culture, media and sport select committee on 9 September.

Despite an impressive City CV - she was recently linked to the chairmanship of Barclays - Fairhead, who also sits on the board of drinks group PepsiCo, may not be the well-known name some had been expecting. Lord Coe, the Conservative peer and chairman of the London 2012 Olympics organising committee, had been considered a shoo-in for the role but declined it, saying he did "not have the capacity".

Dame Marjorie Scardino, the former chief executive of Financial Times parent company Pearson, was another big name linked to the part-time role, which is never far from controversy.

Fairhead, who was born in Cumbria in 1961 and holds a first-class degree in law from Cambridge University, worked under Scardino for 12 years, rising to become chief executive of the Financial Times Group. She left Pearson shortly after failing to succeed Scardino.

According to her entry in Debrett's, Fairhead's hobbies include skiing, flying and scuba diving. Prior to joining Pearson, she worked at chemicals group ICI and engineering firm Bombardier. She was appointed CBE in 2012 and was this year made a British business ambassador. A non-executive member of the Cabinet Office board, she stood down on being selected as the preferred candidate to chair the BBC Trust.

In an interview in 1998, Fairhead, who has three children and is married to a former Tory councillor, said women could have children and still be successful in the City. "That's an important message for people to receive, since there has been a feeling recently you can't have both."

Captions:

Rona Fairhead sits on the board of HSBC bank and was linked to the chairmanship of Barclays.


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Source: Observer (UK)


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