Adrian Cadbury, U.K. Corporate Governance Leader, Dies at 86

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Adrian Cadbury, former chairman of Cadbury Schweppes Plc and a leader in the field of best practices in corporate governance, has died. He was 86.

He died Sept. 3 in Birmingham, central England, according to Jon Garbett, a spokesman for Aston University, where Cadbury was chancellor from 1979 to 2004.

Chairman of Cadbury Schweppes, the U.K.-based food and beverage company, from 1974 to 1989, he was best known for heading the Committee on the Financial Aspects of Corporate Governance from 1991 to 1995. The group’s recommendations helped formed the bedrock of what today is generally accepted as proper corporate-structure rules.

“Cadbury has become the elder statesman of the corporate-governance movement and Britain is the ‘corporate-governance capital of the world’ in the words of long-time shareholder activist and Cadbury admirer Bob Monks,” the Guardian newspaper reported in 2002.

He described his experience as chairman of the committee, which amounted to a second career after spending more than three decades in the family business, in his 2002 book “Corporate Governance and Chairmanship: A Personal View.”

For example, a chief executive officer shouldn’t also serve as chairman, he said, because he would focus the board’s attention on short-term results rather than long-range planning.

“My argument is that the company should revolve around the board, which under the guidance of the chairman should establish priorities and values and see that the executives put them into practice,” he wrote.

GM Experience

General Motors Corp. followed Cadbury’s approach in 1992 after it replaced Robert Stemple, who was the Detroit-based automaker’s CEO and chairman. It tapped company executive Jack Smith Jr. to be chief and named an outside director, John Smale, to serve as chairman, giving him ultimate authority to map GM’s direction, according to a 1992 New York Times story.

This management structure was unusual in the U.S. at the time while common in the U.K. The move toward stricter board oversight of a CEO gained momentum after corporate scandals such as the collapse of Robert Maxwell’s media empire, where the board failed to monitor Maxwell, who was both CEO and chairman. His company collapsed soon after his death by drowning in November 1991.

Olympic Rower

George Adrian Hayhurst Cadbury was born on April 15, 1929, in Birmingham, to Laurence John Cadbury and the former Joyce Mathews, according to Marquis Who’s Who.

In 1952, he graduated from Cambridge University, where he was on the rowing team. He also rowed for the U.K. in the 1952 Helsinki Olympics.

In the 1950s, Cadbury went to work for the company whose roots extend back to 1824, when John Cadbury opened a Birmingham grocer’s shop that sold cocoa and seven years later started the manufacturing business.

The company merged with Schweppes in 1969.

From 1970 to 1994, Adrian Cadbury was a director of the Bank of England, according to a profile on Aston University’s website.

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