Rolls-Royce hires Anita Frew as first female chair

Engine-maker Rolls-Royce has named Anita Frew as its incoming chair, marking the first time a woman has been appointed to the role in its 115-year history.

Ms Frew – currently chair of chemicals group Croda – will join the board at Rolls on July 1 and succeed incumbent chairman Sir Ian Davis on October 1.

Sir Ian is retiring after almost nine years in the role and Rolls reportedly kicked off the hunt for his replacement last December.

Rolls said Ms Frew, 63, emerged as the “outstanding candidate” after a comprehensive search.

She has held board appointments in the UK and globally for the past 20 years, with recent former roles including deputy chairman and senior independent director at Lloyds Banking Group.

Ms Frew also previously worked as a director at advertising group WPP with its founder Sir Martin Sorrell and held roles at Royal Bank of Scotland.

Sir Kevin Smith, senior independent director at Rolls, said: “She brings a wealth of experience from two decades of board appointments both in the UK and internationally, and her skills and reputation with investors and government institutions will be invaluable to the group.”

But she takes over at a tough time for the firm, which has been hit hard by the pandemic as the crisis has hammered the global aviation industry.

Rolls crashed to a £4 billion loss in 2020 and chief executive Warren East has embarked on a swingeing cost-cutting programme that will lead to 9,000 jobs being cut worldwide.

Rolls also raised £7.3 billion to survive the pandemic through tapping up shareholders and borrowing from the Bank of England, with plans to raise at least £2 billion from selling off some parts of the business.

Mr East said: “I would like to thank Ian for his steadfast leadership, guidance and unwavering support during a crucial period for the group, both strategically and operationally.”

He added: “I am delighted to welcome Anita to Rolls-Royce, with her extensive experience and leadership I look forward to working with her.”