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April 4, 2014

A Vacant Chair for Blythe Masters

“Blythe Masters’s exit from JPMorgan Chase with the sale of its physical commodities business could solve Glencore’s longstanding search for a chairman.”

“Ms. Masters, the brains behind the credit default swap, has the expertise to join the trading house’s board, whose all-male roll makes it an anachronism among companies in the FTSE 100-stock index. But there is one big obstacle to her leading this or any board: She has never run a company before.”

“Time is short. Glencore has committed to filling the chairman vacancy before its annual meeting on May 20. The group is at the stage of discussing three candidates with shareholders. It is not surprising that the search has dragged on — there are few people who carry all the skills for the job. The crucial personal attribute is the ability to act as both a support and a balance to the chief executive, Ivan Glasenberg, who has more influence than most bosses, because he owns an 8.3 percent stake. The candidate also needs to have the backing of British institutional shareholders. That argues for someone whose curriculum vitae is heavy with British company experience. Knowledge of commodities is also essential if the chairman is to participate fully in strategic and technical discussions.”

“Ms. Masters ticks some, but not all the boxes. Her main handicap is that she has not been a chief executive herself, even though she has had many senior leadership positions at JPMorgan. That would make her appointment to the role especially brave. True, the Glencore board already has some former chiefs on it – including a former Morgan Stanley boss, John Mack. But it might be hard for Ms. Masters to run the board authoritatively without comparable experience herself. Mr. Mack’s presence also dilutes the value of Ms. Masters’ financial perspective.”


Read full New York Times article here.

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