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London Stock Exchange: Who shot Michael Lawrence?

At a parliamentary inquiry on February 28, Michael Lawrence, former chief executive of the London Stock Exchange, told how the board fired him eight weeks earlier "without warning". Was he so terrible to deal with, or did some board members see him as a threat to their continued enjoyment of privileged advantage? Stephanie Cooke reports.

Michael Lawrence, recently ousted chief executive of the London Stock Exchange, once made a proud boast. "I can speak," he said, "faster than most people think." On January 4 he put his eloquence to the test - and failed.

Lawrence had just learned that the exchange's board was considering his future. He asked for, and obtained, permission to explain why he should keep his job. He obviously wasn't convincing. A vote was taken after he left the room, then exchange chairman John Kemp-Welch briefly explained the meeting's decision. "He was out in 15 minutes," recalls a source close to Lawrence. "He was summarily dismissed."

Although Lawrence didn't know it, Kemp-Welch had called the non-executive board members the day before the meeting to inform them that the exchange's appointments and remuneration committee had recommended that he go. It happened that three of the committee's four members - top officials from BZW, Merrill Lynch, and SBC Warburg - had adamantly opposed a proposal which Lawrence had been pushing, to alter radically trading practices in London by moving to an order-driven system. "I think what you saw on the third and fourth of January was a massive coup," Lawrence told the House of Commons' treasury committee last month.


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