The Men and Women Who Run Reckitt Benckiser

Management can make all the difference to a company's success -- and thus its share price. The best companies are those run by talented and experienced leaders with strong vested interests in the success of the business, held in check by a board with sound financial and business acumen. Some of the worst investments to hold are those run by executives collecting fat rewards as the underlying business goes to pot.

In this series, I'm assessing the boardrooms of companies within the FTSE 100. I hope to separate the management teams that are worth following from those that are not. Today I am looking at Reckitt Benckiser (LSE: RB  ) (NASDAQOTH: RBGLY), the household-to-health-care consumer products group.

Here are the key directors:

Director

Position

Adrian Bellamy

Nonexecutive chairman

Rakesh Kapoor

Chief executive

Liz Doherty

Finance director

Adrian Bellamy, together with deputy chairman Peter Harf, is the longest-serving director, having joined the newly formed board in 1999 when Reckitt and Benckiser merged. He became chairman in 2003. His background is in international retail and luxury goods, and he was previously chairman of Gucci and The Body Shop.

Rakesh Kapoor took over as CEO from Bart Becht in September 2011. Becht had been CEO since the merger and was credited with the company's considerable success over that period, with the shares rising sixfold. An Indian national, Kapoor joined the company in 1987 and worked in a variety of roles, initially in India and then in several regions across the globe.

Arguably, RB's star had begun to wane before Kapoor became CEO. However, although he has not enjoyed such plaudits as Becht, the share price has kept up with the FTSE 100 and rival Unilever during his tenure. Kapoor is carving out a new strategy, reorganizing to focus more on emerging markets and shifting the product mix toward health care.

Departure
That, in part, may explain the impending departure of finance director Liz Docherty. In March she will be replaced by Adrian Hennah, the former finance director of health care group Smith and Nephew who previously spent 20 years at GlaxoSmithKline.

Appointed by the previous CEO in January 2011, Docherty, it seems, did not fit with the new CEO. In unusually frank language, Kapoor said, "Liz and I have agreed that RB's and her way of working are not as well matched as either of us would like." Hennah is expected to act more in the nature of a chief operating officer and less as a pure bean-counter.

It's understandable if Kapoor needs a reliable left-hand man at board meetings. The two executives are outnumbered four-to-one by the chairman and seven nonexecutives -- what a contrast with Next, the last company I reviewed, which has four executives and five nonexecs, including the chairman.

Formidable
And deputy chairman Peter Harf must be formidable. He is CEO of the private investment company Joh. A. Benckiser, which owns about 15% of RB's shares and which, since the merger, has been entitled to nominate a director. An impressive-looking bunch of nonexecs includes two serving FTSE 100 CEOs and the former finance director of Vodafone.

I analyze management teams from five different angles to work out a verdict. Here's my assessment:

Criterion

Comment

Score (out of 5)

Reputation -- management CVs and track record

Decent.

3

Performance -- success at the company

Promising.

3

Board composition -- skills, experience, and balance

Great individuals; balance upset.

4

Remuneration -- fairness of pay and link to performance

Now uncontroversial.

3

Directors' holdings -- compared to their pay

Kapoor's is substantial.

3

Overall, Reckitt Benckiser scores 16 out of 25 -- a fairly poor result but one that reflects the short tenure of the CEO and the changeover of the finance director, rather than any particular cause for concern.

I've collated all my FTSE 100 boardroom verdicts on this summary page.

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