Cridland's successor announced
Former television executive takes helm at CBI
Carolyn Fairbairn takes the helm at the UK’s biggest business group and will lead the organisation during the important debate over membership of the European Union.
She will also be urged to take an early interest in the UK constitutional issue which plunged her predecessor into controversy in the run up to last year’s referendum on Scottish independence.
An experienced business leader and former director of strategy at the BBC and ITV, Ms Fairbairn currently holds a number of non-executive directorships, including global outsourcer Capita, small cap manufacturer Vitec, Lloyds Banking Group, the Competition and Markets Authority and the UK Statistics Authority.
She has enjoyed a varied career spanning strategy, economics, policy making, management consultancy and journalism. She plans to step down from all her current non-executive directorships when she takes up her role at the CBI, apart from remaining a trustee of the charity Marie Curie.
The recruitment process for the new director-general was led by current CBI President Sir Mike Rake and conducted by executive search firm Odgers Berndtson. Ms Fairbairn was selected by a committee of the CBI Board from a long list of 46 candidates, including deputy director general Katja Hall who was considered one of the favourites for the job. There was a final shortlist of six which was put before the CBI’s chairmen’s committee.
Ms Fairbairn will work closely with CBI president-designate Paul Drechsler in ensuring the interests of British businesses of all sizes across the UK are represented in Whitehall, Brussels and internationally.
CBI president Sir Mike Rake said: “Carolyn is a remarkable business leader with an impressive background as an economist, journalist, management consultant and policy strategist. This includes being a member of the Prime Minister’s Downing Street Policy Unit and holding senior roles at the BBC and ITV.
“Carolyn’s CV speaks for itself. Her wealth and breadth of experience will be critical in steering the CBI through choppy political and economic waters, including an EU referendum. She will take over the reins from John in November and will lead a formidable team at the CBI.”
Ms Fairbairn said: “The CBI has an outstanding track record of championing the conditions that enable British businesses to flourish.
“The debate around Britain’s relationship with the European Union and the productivity challenge facing our economy will be two of the defining issues of the next few years, and I greatly look forward to representing the voice of British businesses of all sizes on these questions and many others.
“Now perhaps more than ever, thriving British companies hold the key to the future prosperity of our country.”
Aged 54, she began her career as an economist at the World Bank, before joining the Economist magazine as a journalist and then spending six years as a management consultant at McKinsey & Company
She was a member of Number 10’s Policy Unit, advising on health and social services (1995-1997). She joined the BBC in 1997 and was responsible for strategic planning for its commercial arm, BBC Worldwide, before going on to lead the BBC’s digital growth strategy, including the launch of Freeview.
In 2006 she became a partner at McKinsey & Company where she was one of the leaders of its UK media practice and went on to become director of Group Development and Strategy at ITV (2007-2010). Between 2008 and 2011, she was a non-executive director of the Financial Services Authority following the collapse of Northern Rock and was involved in overhauling its regulatory processes and restructuring it into two new regulators, the Prudential Regulation Authority and Financial Conduct Authority.
She read Economics at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, graduating with a double First; holds an MA in International Relations from the University of Pennsylvania and an MBA from INSEAD. She is married with three children and lives in Hampshire.
Earlier this month the CBI announced that Paul Drechsler, chairman of diversified global firm Bibby Line Group, has been nominated to succeed Sir Mike Rake as CBI President with members asked to endorse his appointment at the annual general meeting on 13 July.
Mr Drechsler said: “Carolyn’s passion for business and her dynamism shine through. She combines a varied and extensive business background with a wide range of non-executive experience on audit and remuneration committees across a range of sectors and bodies.”
Commenting on the departure of Mr Cridland and his contribution to business, Sir Mike Rake added: “I’d like to thank John on behalf of CBI members for his outstanding service and dedication to the business community.
“After more than 30 years at the CBI, banging the drum for business of all sizes at home and abroad, he will be sorely missed.
“Among John’s many achievements during his CBI career are putting the growth potential of medium-sized businesses on the economic and political map and his work on the Low Pay Commission in introducing a national minimum wage.
“He has also been a passionate advocate for an education system that delivers for all young people and his clarion call to get more businesses involved in education from primary schools and beyond has resonated in boardrooms across Britain.”
Mr Cridland said: “In the coming months I will be working tirelessly to ensure that the priorities of CBI members for the new Government are pursued relentlessly – from pushing for an ambitious EU reform agenda to addressing the aviation capacity crunch in the South East.
“While I will be sad to leave the CBI later this year, I am delighted to pass the baton to Carolyn, who will become the eleventh Director-General of an organisation that I have been proud to serve for more than 30 years.”