The Men Who Run Tate & Lyle

Published in Company Comment on 7 December 2012

What you need to know about the food ingredients group's top executives.

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 (UKX). I hope to separate the management teams that are worth following from those that are not. Today I am looking at Tate & Lyle (LSE: TATE), the company whose name is synonymous with sugar but which has transformed itself into a speciality ingredients manufacturer.

Here are the key directors:

DirectorPosition
Sir Peter Gershon(non-exec) Chairman
Javed AhmedChief Executive
Tim LodgeFinance Director

We have met Sir Peter Gershon already in this series. He is also chairman of National Grid, a post he took up earlier this year. He has been chairman of Tate & Lyle since 2009, though his background seems more appropriate for his role at the utility. Most of his career was spent in the technology and telecommunications sectors. He was in charge of GEC’s defence businesses until it was sold to BAE Systems. He then joined the civil service and was responsible for the Gershon Review into public spending efficiency for the Blair administration.

Golden

The announcement of Javed Ahmed’s appointment as CEO in May 2009 after the company had suffered a series of profit warnings sent the shares up 8%. That's some golden hello from investors in golden syrup! He took up the role in November of that year and promptly sold the company's sugar refining business including the brand name of Lyle’s Golden Syrup, continuing the strategy already established of refocusing the business away from commodities and onto value-added products.

An American with an MBA from Stamford, Mr Ahmed started his career at Procter & Gamble. After a stint as a Bain consultant, he joined Benckiser (later Reckitt Benckiser), serving as regional head in a number of locations, and rising to be executive vice president of Europe. The regard in which he was held in this post was reflected in Tate & Lyle's share price rise, though his FMCG background was a somewhat odd fit for Tate & Lyle’s refined strategy.

New

Tim Lodge completes the line-up of new executives appointed in 2009. His was an inside job: a chartered accountant, he had worked for the company for 20 years in operational and financial roles including as acting finance director for three months before his permanent appointment. Well regarded, he today announced that the company has completed a £350m deal which transfers half the risk of the company's pension deficit volatility onto an insurance company.

Tate & Lyle has no less than seven non-executives to hold management to account. They have mixed background, with a good portion of relevant industry experience.

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

1. Reputation. Management CVs and track record.

Very good.
Score 4/5
2. Performance. Success at the company.

Strong.
Score 4/5
3. Board Composition. Skills, experience, balance

Impressive.
Score 4/5
4. Remuneration. Fairness of pay, link to performance.

Uncontroversial.
Score 3/5
5. Directors’ Holdings, compared to their pay.

CEO has £8m-worth, over 10 times base salary.
Score 4/5

Overall, Tate & Lyle scores 19 out of 25, a top quartile result. It's a small negative that the chairman has another FTSE100 company to chair, but overall this is an impressive board.

I've collated all my FTSE 100 boardroom verdicts on this summary page. I hope it helps with your analysis.

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Let me finish by adding that legendary investor Warren Buffett has always looked for impressive management teams when pinpointing which shares to buy. So I think it's important to tell you that the billionaire stock-picker has recently acquired a substantial stake in a prominent FTSE 100 company.

A special free report from The Motley Fool -- "The One UK Share Warren Buffett Loves" -- explains Mr Buffett's purchase and investing logic in full.

And Mr Buffett, don't forget, rarely invests outside his native United States, which to my mind makes this British blue chip -- and its management -- all the more attractive. So why not download the report today? It's totally free and comes with no further obligation.

> Tony owns shares in National Grid, BAE Systems and Reckitt Benckiser, but no other shares mentioned in this article.

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Comments

The opinions expressed here are those of the individual writers and are not representative of The Motley Fool. If you spot any comments that are unsuitable hit the flag to alert our moderators.

DirtyDollie 07 Dec 2012 , 2:22pm

I didn't know Warren Buffett was involved in Tate and Lyle! Oh, wait... he isn't.

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