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CBI appoints former Serco boss Rupert Soames as new president

Rupert Soames is expected to be elected at the AGM next year (CBI/PA)
Rupert Soames is expected to be elected at the AGM next year (CBI/PA)

The grandson of Sir Winston Churchill will become the next president of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) after a turbulent year for the business group which has the ear of the country’s top political leaders.

Rupert Soames, a long-time chief executive who has led major companies, is expected to be elected at the CBI’s annual meeting in June.

His predecessor Brian McBride will step down after helping to steer the lobby group through what was likely its biggest crisis in its near-60-year history.

In April, the group fired its then director general Tony Danker, saying his conduct “fell short” of what was expected.

It followed allegations, published in the Guardian, that staff members had felt Mr Danker’s behaviour had at times been inappropriate.

Later, the Guardian published much more serious allegations of rape and sexual harassment against other unnamed former CBI staff.

It threw the organisation into a deep crisis. The Government stopped its engagement with the CBI, and dozens of the biggest companies in the UK suspended or cancelled their memberships of the group.

Since then the CBI, under new director general Rain Newton-Smith, has tried to steady the ship.

Mr Soames’s appointment as president has been approved by the board, but he will still need to be formally elected in the summer.

He started at General Electric decades ago, but became best known in the business world for running FTSE 250 company Serco for nine years and Aggreko, a power company formerly on the FTSE 100.

“After a robust search process, Rupert Soames will be taking on the role as the next president of the CBI,” said Mr McBride.

“With the CBI back influencing at the highest levels across the UK again, there is no better person to pass the baton to.

“Rupert’s track record as one of the UK’s longest serving and most successful CEOs makes him the ideal choice.”

Mr Soames said: “After a decade of disruption and distraction due to Brexit, Covid, inflation and labour shortages, business and Government need to work closely together to deliver a prosperous future where economic growth will lift living standards and sustainably fund the UK’s vital public services.

“The CBI is needed more now than at almost any time in its history, and it will be a privilege to lead the organisation in the coming years.”