Only this week Sir Philip Hampton was in front of a select committee in parliament discussing the difficulties in the role of independent directors where a strong executive had a significant stake in the business.
The French Connection story follows quickly on from that. Stephen Marks is both chairman and CEO and the largest shareholder. This means it is even more important that the independent directors can truly represent the interests of the other shareholders and have a strong independent voice as to the strategy, remuneration and risk profile of the business.
No one is saying the current directors haven't done that, but as two of the independent directors have been in place for nine years their independence is now diminished. One wonders if there should have been more thought given to bringing in replacements gradually prior to this nine year cliff-edge.
As I suggested in my comment on Sir Philip's briefing, is it time institutional investors set out more clearly the role they expect of independent directors? And the consequences if they are not seen to be able to achieve their role?
It seems that the time is now ripe to revisit independent directors' roles, duties and responsibilities.
French Connection begins search for new board members in response to activist pressure