The private life of CEOs

Tomorrow's Business

We’re entitled to know about the private life of wannabe Prime Ministers, especially if they are Boris Johnson. That seems to have been decided.

What about wannabe or standing chief executives of FTSE companies?

Here it’s murkier. A boss having a row with his girlfriend probably wouldn’t make the news, even if the police were called.

The chief executive of Lloyds Bank found The Sun inconveniently interested in his affair in a Singapore hotel, the justification being that he was running a bailed out bank – he worked directly for the taxpayer, so it’s our business, the press gleefully ruled.

Otherwise, financial hacks might take the view that such matters are the business of the CEOs family and his board of directors, but not his staff or investors. (Tabloid hacks or straight news reporters would probably disagree).

Typicallly, these matters become public because the company decides to make them so, as Sir Martin Sorrell discovered to his cost.

He denied the allegations, but it’s hard to see how they would make him worse at running a company in any case.

When former Aviva boss Andrew Moss admitted to an affair, the company made a big show of how open he had been about it, at least to his chairman. This openness kept him his job. (He lost it later after a shareholder revolt over pay.)

On other occasions, the recklessness of the behaviour does call into question job suitability.

Rupert Pennant-rea had to quit The Bank of England over an affair with hack Mary Ellen Synon. As she said: “If you are going to dump, don’t dump a financial journalist if you are Deputy Governor of the Bank of England. That’s dumb.”

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