The president of the CBI expressed doubts about the survival of Britain’s biggest business lobbying group if it had run a conventional process to recruit a new chief.
Sky News has learnt that Brian McBride told a group of members on Tuesday afternoon that he was concerned that the CBI might not have withstood a protracted leadership vacuum as it contends with the biggest crisis in its history.
The CBI sacked Tony Danker, its director-general, following an inquiry into allegations about his behaviour, which has since mushroomed into a broader investigation about incidents of sexual misconduct which pre-dated Mr Danker’s tenure.
Mr McBride told members that the director-general was dismissed without compensation, and confirmed that three other managers had been suspended.
The CBI’s board parachuted its former chief economist, Rain Newton-Smith, into the top job after making contact with her on Saturday.
She had only recently started an executive role at Barclays.
Mr McBride described her on his call with members as the “dream” appointment, and encouraged them to express public support for the CBI’s actions.
Some, including the Recruitment and Employment Confederation, backed Ms Newton-Smith’s return – although its boss, Neil Carberry, is a former colleague of the new CBI director-general.
However, a number of CBI members raised questions about its board’s approach to tackling the crisis.
One pointed out that Ms Newton-Smith had been responsible for diversity and inclusion during at least part of the period covered by the second wave of misconduct allegations.
A timeframe for the conclusion of that investigation has yet to be disclosed, raising renewed questions about the CBI’s effectiveness given that it has been frozen out by the government while the inquiries continue.
In its announcement on Tuesday, the CBI said Jill Ader, a non-executive director, would oversee a review of its culture, governance and processes.
Several members said, though, that attention had shifted among many to the relevance and performance of the lobby group.
“The lack of transparency, process and good governance came through today,” said one.
“It feels complacent and there is no sense of needing to do a wider reappraisal of what the CBI is for, which is where debate has now moved to.
“They clearly think they can draw a line but this only makes matters worse.”
Mr McBride is understood to have complained during his call with members that other organisations had sought to take advantage of the CBI’s troubles to suggest it should be abolished.
Mr Danker said he had been “shocked” to discover on Tuesday that he was being sacked “instead of being invited to put my position forward as was originally confirmed”.
He added that many of the allegations against him had been “distorted”.
The CBI declined to comment further on its president’s remarks.