Saturday 23 September 2017

The Punt: Howard's way to rule Ulster

John Moran - taking up new role.
John Moran - taking up new role.

Ulster Bank looks like it could be getting a new boss, possibly as early as this week.

The bank's UK state-controlled parent, Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), is set to name Sir Howard Davies as chairman, according to a report from the well-connected 'Financial Times'.

As you might expect, the incoming chairman is every inch the City grandee. He is a former chairman of the UK Financial Services Authority, current chairman of UK insurer Phoenix Group and sits on the boards of Morgan Stanley and Prudential.

Davies's armour isn't entirely impenetrable, mind you.

If he is named to the RBS chair, expect to be reminded of his exit from the board of the London School of Economics (LSE) back in 2011.

Davies stood down as director of the LSE after it emerged the university had received a hefty donation from the then Libyan dictator Colonel Gadaffi's son. Davies said the LSE's reputation had "suffered" after taking the cash and after it agreed to train Libyan civil servants before the Gadaffi regime collapsed.

Museum role for John Moran

Former Department of Finance Secretary General John Moran is spreading his wings into the cultural world, as he is taking on the chairmanship of the Hunt Museum in his native Limerick.

Moran, who stepped down from the top Finance job last year, takes over the new post from current chair Niall Greene.

The Hunt Museum was set up to house an internationally important collection of approximately 2,000 works of art and antiquities formed by art dealers John and Gertrude Hunt during their lifetimes.

Moran said he was delighted to be taking up the new role.

"The museum is in a period of transition and has become more embedded than ever in the life of the city and the region," he said.

"I very much look forward to working with the dedicated team already in place there to move the museum forward."

Hunt director Dr Hugh Maguire said he was pleased that someone of such capability would be working with the museum.

"The museum has many significant large­-scale ambitions and aspirations," he said.

Pay dirt for Smurfit execs

Smurfit Kappa boss Gary McGann had a nice day at the office yesterday.

The chief executive saw 268,021 shares awarded under a deferred bonus plan in 2011 vest. He sold 208,021 of those shares for €23.75, having had to fork out nothing for them.

That netted him €4.9m. Pre-tax, of course.

He's left with 491,810 shares in the packaging giant, which are currently worth €11.7m.

Chief operations officer Tony Smurfit also received shares that vested under the deferred bonus plan.

He sold 184,471 of them for €4.4m.

He's left with a whopping 1.1m shares in the business that are now worth €26m.

Chief financial officer Ian Curley received 232,211 shares under the deferred bonus plan and an incentive plan.

Of those, 158,483 were free, and sold for €3.7m. He has 214,267 shares left, worth €5m.

Back in 2011, in the depths of the financial crisis, Smurfit Kappa was not beloved of the market, with its debt pile seen then as a boil on the company's balance sheet.

Since then, the company has paid down debt and been carefully stewarded by McGann and his team.

It's a cash cow, and dividends for shareholders have been hiked, while the company has also made acquisitions in the United States.

Its market capitalisation has ballooned from €1.8bn in February 2011 to €5.5bn as of yesterday.

There's been a lot of speculation over the past few months as to whether or not McGann - who turns 65 this August - will be lining up any retirement plans.

The former Aer Lingus chief executive doesn't appear to be headed for the sunset just yet though.

Irish Independent

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