Arise ‘Sir Rick’

Tuesday, July 28 2009


Rick Haythornthwaite at the Almeida Theatre 25 Anniversary Gala.
Photo Almeida Theatre.

(Click photo to see more pictures from the Almeida Gala.)

Rick Haythornthwaite has taken over as Chairman of Network Rail following the departure of Sir Ian McAllister at the company’s AGM held in Bristol on 22 July. Sir Ian announced his decision to step-down in October 2008. In January, the company announced that a successor had been found. He has been working for Network Rail in the position of designate Chairman since March.

He was elected a Director of the company at the AGM. Immediately afterwards, at a special Board meeting, he was elected its chairman. He  said, It will be a privilege to lead this large, complex and important company as it delivers some big challenges in the years ahead. Success is vital for the three million people who use our railways every day as well as to the economy of the UK.

Rick Haythornthwaite graduated from Queen’s College, Oxford, with an honors degree in geology and subsequently completed a Masters degree in Business Management at MIT.

He began his career as a geologist at BP. Over a period of 17 years, he served the company in several capacities, including as general manager of the Magnus Oilfield and as president of BP in Venezuela. He was a Corporate and Commercial Director of Premier Oil plc from 1995 to 1997, and then worked as Chief Executive of cement company Blue Circle. In 2001 he became Chief Executive of engineering conglomerate Invensys where he lead the rescue and restructuring of the £7bn a year company. He departed from Invensys in 2005.

He is a managing director at STAR Capital Partners, an independent investment fund management company, and he is the non-executive chairman of MasterCard Inc. and until recently was a non-executive director at ICI. He is also chairman of the Better Regulation Commission, an independent body that advises the British government. He is a member of the MOT Leadership’s Centre advisory council. He is chairman of the Almeida Theatre Company, the Tate Gallery’s Corporate Advisory Group and the Southbank Centre. He is also on the board of the British Council.

Rick Haythornthwaite will need every ounce of his extensive industry experience for his new job. He faces four groups of stakeholders whose interests are mostly divergent and who will use Network Rail as a buffer as they square off against each other. In the red corner are the Treasury who are systemically opposed to new railway investment and would prefer to deal with Britain’s transport problems by building more roads. In the blue corner are Network’s Rail’s directors and senior managers who enjoy Network Rail’s lavish bonus culture and who will oppose any attempt to reform the company’s governance. In the green corner are the great British public who want a world class railway service, but receive a six-days-a-week railway with massive annual disruptions over the Christmas and New Year. Finally, in the yellow corner are the Train Operating Companies who need a reliable railway infrastructure with sufficient capacity to cope with increasing demand for their railway services.

It is an almost impossible job to keep each of the four stakeholders satisfied. So we recommend that Rick Haythornthwaite receives his knighthood – a reward that is customary for those who have been brave enough to occupy his position – as soon as possible and before anything can go seriously wrong. That way he can be spared the embarrassment which occurred with his predecessor, Sir Ian McAllister, who received his gong simultaneously as Network Rail received a £14 million fine from ORR, Britain’s railway regulator.


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