Lord Smith to step down as Weir Group chairman

Lord Smith of Kelvin. Picture: Getty
Lord Smith of Kelvin. Picture: Getty
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LORD Smith of Kelvin is expected to announce this week that he is stepping down as chairman of engineering giant Weir Group.

Scotland on Sunday understands that he will be leaving the Glasgow-based FTSE 100 firm at the end of the year and that a statement will be issued at this week’s annual general meeting. A successor is expected to be announced.

Smith joined the board in February 2002 and became chairman in July of that year. It is thought he is leaving under corporate governance guidelines on the length of service expected of directors, and to slim down his commitments.

Lord Smith, regarded as one of Scotland’s pre-eminent business leaders, is also chairman of Scottish FTSE 100 company SSE, formerly Scottish & Southern Energy.

In 2008 he was appointed chairman of the Glasgow 2014 organising committee for the Commonwealth Games, and was hired in the same post last year for the UK government’s Green Investment Bank, a £3 billion initiative based in Edinburgh and London that provides funds for renewable energy projects.

He was unavailable for comment on his future at Weir Group, but his spell as chairman has straddled a period of substantial growth for the specialist pumps and valves manufacturer, which operates in the mining, power and oil and gas sectors.

It almost fell victim to a take-over in the 1990s but has seen its stock rise 900 per cent over the past decade. The shares hit an all-time high of 2,474p last month.

The company has operations around the world, although it no longer manufactures in Scotland and left its spiritual home in Cathcart when the headquarters relocated to the city centre in 2007.

Scotland on Sunday has also learned that Weir’s former Australian chief executive, Mark Selway, who left in 2009 to join Boral, Australia’s biggest building and construction materials supplier, is looking to return to the UK.

Glasgow-born Smith, who is also a former governor of the BBC and the present chancellor of the University of the West of Scotland, qualified as a chartered accountant in 1968 and worked at ICFC, now 3i, until 1982.

He joined the Royal Bank of Scotland in 1983. From 1985 to 1989 he was managing director of Charterhouse Development Capital. He was both chairman and chief executive of Morgan Grenfell Private Equity.

In 1997, during his time as chief executive of Morgan Grenfell Asset Management (MGAM), he famously suspended star manager Nicola Horlick over claims – which she denied – that she intended to poach key staff for a rival firm. Smith had just promoted her and the story made headlines around the world, with the media dubbing her superwoman for combining her demanding job with being a mother of five.

Smith became vice chairman of MGAM’s successor, Deutsche Asset Management, between 2000 and 2002.

He was a member of the Financial Services Authority from 1997 to 2000 and of the Financial Reporting Council (FRC). He was responsible for the Smith Report, published in January 2003, which codified the role of audit committees. It was subsequently revised and is now known as the FRC Guidance on Audit Committees. He is also a past president of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland.