Been There; Done That
January 1 1997 by JP Donlon
In April 1993, CE launched its first annual review of the best and worst corporate boards. It was the brainchild of our longtime “Speaking Out” columnist Bob Lear, who teaches at Columbia Business School as an executive-in-residence. A former CEO and board director of numerous corporations and institutional funds, Lear is a recognized authority on corporate governance and the workings of boards. Together with former Columbia Business School Dean Boris “Bob” Yavitz and a modest degree of guidance from yours truly, Lear formulated what has become a hallmark annual CE feature-identifying the five best and five worst corporate boards among U.S. public companies.
Having seen what goes on in many boardrooms, Lear and Yavitz wanted to encourage boards to improve their governance practices-some of which they found abhorrent. Both have worked with the National Association of Corporate Directors, Yavitz having served as chairman of the Blue Ribbon Commission on Performance Evaluation of CEOs, boards, and individual directors. Lear also served on this commission and as a board director of the NACD and currently sits on its advisory board.
CE, we believe, was the first business publication to judge boards in this way. In its November 25, 1996 cover story, Business Week launched its own best and worst evaluation. The review concept is not a proprietary idea and BW’s methodology is different from ours, but it’s nice to see one’s general ideas hit the mainstream media. It’s also interesting to note that many of BW’s choices for best Campbell Soup, IBM, Caterpillar, Ceridian, Colgate-Palmolive, GM, and those fingered for worst-Archer Daniels Midland, ADM, Heinz, Warnaco, Disney, W.R. Grace, Apple, also made Lear and Yavitz’s best and worst lists respectively during the history of our annual study.
Our corporate governance watchers continue to plow new board practice performance territory. Now that directors are increasingly being drawn into strategic development and direction, Lear and Yavitz are working on a new range of practices that might help CEOs in less charted governance areas. As always CE will push to make our interpretation of this important field helpful to CEOs who wish to push themselves at the leading edge.