Measuring up the CEO

5th August 2010

The value of a talented CEO was brought into sharp relief when the departure of HP chief executive Mark Hurd wiped $10bn off the share price of the computer giant. 

It comes hot on the heels of the departure of BP's Tony Hayward, whose poor handling of the Gulf of Mexico crisis undoubtedly contributed to the precipitous decline in BP's share price.

The Daily Telegraph reports that when he took a break from the clean-up operation to watch his yacht take part in a race, Rahm Emanuel, chief of staff to President Obama, described it as another "gaffe" by the BP chief executive.

Hayward provoked further anger after agreeing to step down when he claimed to have been ‘demonized and vilified'.

According to The Global Times , White House spokesman Robert Gibbs responded by saying that "I don't think that a lot of people in any country are feeling overly sorry for the former CEO of BP."

There are plenty of other examples of CEO's provoking the wrath of their company shareholders.

Richard Buxton, head of UK equities at Schroders, recently called for the removal of Prudential CEO Tidjane Thiam after the company's failed attempt to acquire AIG's Asian arm. IFA Online reports him as saying that "this disastrous deal has cost shareholders £450 million."

This was not the first time that Buxton had publicly intervened in a Board level decision. Back in 2008 he was highly critical of the move by M&S to combine the normally independent roles of Chairman and Chief Executive.

He is reported in The Times to have said: "For such a household name to do this sets an appalling precedent. They should reverse the decision and appoint an independent chairman." 

By contrast, a good CEO can have a hugely positive influence. When Tesco boss Sir Terry Leahy announced his retirement it prompted < a href="">The Daily Mail to describe him as a "visionary who changed the face of shopping".

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