WHSmith today stood by the former chairman of Greensill, Maurice Thompson, who still sits on its board as a non-executive director despite his involvement at one of the most high profile financial collapses of recent times.
WHSmith has removed all reference to Thompson’s chairmanship of the controversial supply chain finance company from his biography on its website.
However, senior WHSmith sources said there were no plans for him to leave the job, where he is earning £53,000 a year part-time.
Investors say he and his fellow non-executive directors at the collapsed Greensill have serious questions to answer about their knowledge of the lender’s highly risky business model which left it catastrophically reliant on one key client, Sanjeev Gupta’s steel empire.
It also remains unclear how much they knew of the lobbying done by the company’s adviser David Cameron for taxpayer-backed Covid loans to be granted the business.
Thompson, a former head of Citigroup’s UK operations, did not respond to requests for comment and, like other board members, have so far remained silent.
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A WHSmith source said the board was aware of the situation but would not take action unless Thompson was criticised personally in any of the multiple inquiries into the Greensill scandal.
Thompson’s board at Greensill also included audit committee chairman Pat Allin, a former PWC partner, and Roland Hartley-Urquhart, vice chairman and a former banker at Citi.
WHSmith, which boasted of Thompson’s chairmanship of Greensill in its most recent annual report, claimed it had removed all mention of the firm from his online biography because his role had only been a non-executive one. That made it irrelevant once he had stepped down, it said.
The website instead claims he “most recently...worked at Citi.”
In fact, he reportedly left Citi in 2014 and only left Greensill in March this year, shortly before it collapsed.
Thompson was appointed High Sheriff of Leicestershire in 2009 and was known as something of an action man in the City, having once abseiled down 17 storeys of the Royal London Hospital for charity in 2013.
A previous biography described him as being heavily involved in his local Leicestershire fox hunting group and having taken a sabbatical while at Citi to ride horses in Pakistan, hike in the Alps and do charity work in the UK.
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