The Men Who Run Next

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 Next (LSE: NXT  ) , the Britain's largest fashion group.

Here are the key directors:

Director

Position

John Barton

Nonexecutive chairman

Baron Wolfson of Aspley Guise

Chief executive

David Keens

Finance director

Christos Angelides

Product director

Andrew Varley

Property director

John Barton joined the board in 2002 and became chairman in 2006. A chartered accountant, his background is in the insurance industry. He was CEO of Jardine Insurance Brokers for 13 years until 1997, and when it merged to form Jardine Lloyd Thompson he served as chairman for the next four years. He has also been chairman of Brit Insurance and maintains his connection with the industry as chairman of FTSE 250 insurance broker Catlin.

He also served on the board of Cable and Wireless Worldwide and was chairman at the time of its demise.

Stronger
No doubt a stronger voice on the board is that of CEO Simon Wolfson, the Tory peer. The son of former chairman David Wolfson, he started working at Next as a sales assistant in 1991 and worked his way up the company, becoming CEO in 2001 at the age of 33. That makes him both one of the youngest FTSE 100 chief executives ever and, currently, one of the longest-serving.

Next shares have quadrupled during his tenure. That, along with the company's reputation for delivering on forecasts, its iconic position on the High Street, and Lord Wolfson's prominence in the Tory party, ensures that he is one of the most listened-to FTSE leaders.

David Keens has been finance director since 1991. A chartered accountant, he spent seven years in the profession before a nine year-stint in the food industry, joining Next in 1986 as group treasurer.

Fashion
Christos Angelides also joined the company in 1986, initially responsible for sourcing product in Hong Kong. He has held positions as head of menswear and womenswear and was appointed to the board in 2000. In a business driven by the fickleness of fashion, he is seen as the product guru who has forged Next's success alongside CEO Simon Wolfson.

Property director Andrew Varley is also long-serving. He joined Next in 1985 after 12 years in retail and commercial property, and he joined the board in 1990.

To my mind it's good to see senior functional heads on the board, rather than just a CEO and finance director. But with such a long-serving executive team, I wonder whether the four nonexecs -- with neatly balanced backgrounds in investment banking, accountancy, retail, and property -- can have much sway.

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

Criterion

Comment

Score (out of 5)

Reputation -- management CVs and track record

Excellent, though short of external experience.

3

Performance -- success at the company

Successful.

4

Board composition -- skills, experience, and balance

Good mix but executive-dominated.

3

Remuneration -- fairness of pay and link to performance

Fair. Pay was reduced last year.

4

Directors' holdings -- compared to their pay

Executives have substantial holdings. CEO's is worth 58 million pounds.

5

Overall, Next scores 19 out of 25 -- a top quartile result. The board is dominated by a long-serving executive team but looks fit for purpose.

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

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