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Chairman-CEO Structure - Introduction

How to structure the leadership of large corporations – and specifically whether to split or combine the roles of Chairman and CEO – remains an active and often controversial question.

Under recent shareholder pressure, Walt Disney Company preemptively amended its corporate governance guidelines to require the board of directors to provide annual justification whenever the roles are combined, as they currently are. At Disney and an increasing number of major corporations, the board is obligated to revisit the structure question on a regular basis.

One of a board’s most fundamental responsibilities is putting in place the best leadership team possible, and there’s no easy answer to the structure question. The trend is toward splitting the Chairman and CEO roles, as activist shareholders and corporate governance monitors generally prefer. But there are very successful companies with firm allegiance to keeping the roles combined. And less successful companies have compounded their business problems by changing the structure at each wrong turn.

In order to cast new and up-to-date light on the question of whether and when to change the Chairman-CEO structure, we studied the experience of the Fortune 100 over the last decade and more. In this report we share our observations, conclusions, and recommendations regarding leadership structure, including the increasingly important role of independent Lead Director whenever the Chairman and CEO roles are combined.
I hope you find this report informative and useful, and welcome the opportunity to discuss its findings and implications.

Best regards,

Dora Vell


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