Rolls-Royce hires Anita Frew as its first female chairman

Rolls-Royce hires Anita Frew as its first female chairman as it scrambles to recover from the Covid crisis

Rolls-Royce has appointed Anita Frew as its first female chairman as the company scrambles to recover from the Covid crisis.

Frew, 63, will be tasked with steering the 115-year-old engine maker through a sweeping turnaround, and nursing it back to financial health after the pandemic wiped out much of its income.

Her appointment is another boost for female representation on the boards of Britain’s biggest companies.

Rolls-Royce’s new chairman Anita Frew (pictured) will be tasked with steering the 115-year-old engine maker through a sweeping turnaround

The Scottish businesswoman is a serial board member and has more than 20 years’ experience as a director of firms listed on the London Stock Exchange.

She has been the chairman of FTSE 100 chemicals giant Croda International since 2015, was previously deputy chairman of Lloyds Banking Group and served as a deputy to Sir Martin Sorrell when he was at WPP. 

Frew succeeds Sir Ian Davis, who is stepping down after nine years, at the helm of Britain’s most prestigious engineering company.

She will receive an annual fee of £490,000 for the role as well as £70,000 as a non-executive director. Frew will join the board next month and take over as chairman on October 1.

Only 11 Footsie firms had a female chairman in 2020, according to the Government-backed Hampton Alexander review, which aims to increase representation of women in senior positions in the FTSE 350.

Other firms chaired by women include Annette Court at insurer Admiral and Christine Hodgson at water utility Severn Trent. 

Rolls’ independent director Sir Kevin Smith said Frew was the ‘outstanding candidate’, who would bring a ‘wealth of experience from two decades of board appointments, in the UK and internationally’.

Smith added that her ‘skills, and reputation with investors and government institutions will be invaluable’.

The company, which was already struggling before Covid hit, was hammered by the pandemic because it makes a lot of its income from servicing plane engines. 

Chief executive Warren East has described the pandemic as its ‘darkest hour since the 1970s’. 

The engineering giant lost £4billion last year and warned the recovery in 2021 would be slower than expected after new waves of the virus led to more flight cancellations.

Rolls kicked off a huge restructuring last May – cutting 9,000 jobs from its 52,000 workforce and selling parts of the business worth £2billion. 

It has also raised £7.3billion, which included arranging loans and selling new shares. It is also trying to shore up another £2billion with sell-offs. 

This includes Spanish arm ITP Aero, which makes parts for Eurofighter Typhoon jets.

In March Rolls suffered a setback in the sell-off plan when Norway blocked the £130million sale of a military engines company to a Russian group.