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Saturday, 21 August 2010

Railway linkages in Railway Directorship

I thought I'd return to the work that I am currently doing on the directorships that the board members of the London and South Western Railway (L&SWR) held that were beyond the company. I think their may have been some misunderstanding over my post a few days ago on this topic. The directors of the L&SWR did sit on the boards of other railway companies before 1914. The figures for the L&SWR board members' external railway directorships are as follows:-

1880 - 2 directorships, held by 2 men (Average = 1/director)
1885 - 6 directorships, held by 3 men (Average = 2/director)
1890 - 7 directorships, held by 5 men (Average = 1.4/director)
1895 - 5 directorships, held by 4 men (Average = 1.25/director)
1900 - 2 directorships, held by 2 men (Average = 1/director)
1905 - 1 directorship, held by 1 man (Average = 1 director)
1910 - None
1914 - None

Firstly, the evidence suggests that the number of interlocking directorships with other railways were always small amongst L&SWR directors. Although, the fact that throughout this period the company only had 12 directors, clearly would have influenced this fact. Additionally, of the seven L&SWR board members that were on other railway company boards, only three, A.F. Govett, Arthur E. Guest and Capitan James Johnston, had membership of more than one railway company board. There can also be observed a trend in the figures of declining membership of other railway companies' boards by L&SWR directors, and after 1914 there were none.

I am uncertain why this may be so. However it has been posited by Geoffrey Channon that as the corporate economy developed, as more large business opened up their boards to new directors, railway company boards became less appealing. For most of the 19th century railways had been the only businesses where individuals could obtain directorships. Yet, as the economy grew, the increasing number of other businesses became more appealing for potential directors, and thus, fewer individuals sat on railway company boards.

What the evidence above doesn't show is that slightly more of L&SWR board member's external railway directorships were not on British railway company boards. In total, across all years between 1880 and 1914, L&SWR directors had positions on 11 railway company boards. Only 5 of these directorships were within British railway companies (the Whitby Redcar and Middlesbrough Railway, the Taff Vale Railway, the Cardiff, Penarth and Barry Junction Railway, the North Staffordshire Railway and the Great Northern and City.) However, the remaining 6 directorships were on the boards of railway companies operating overseas, with one in Spain (the Olot and Girona Railway), one in Mexico (the Mexico Southern Railway), two in Brazil (the Donna Thereza Christina and the Southern Brazilian Rio Grande Do Sul Railway) and two in India (the Pondicheri Railway and the South Indian Railway)

This possibly indicates that these directors ordinarily did not choose railway company directorships because of any immediate advantage for the L&SWR. The locations of these railways are so diverse that it is possible that the directors were simply on the board for their own advantage. Indeed, this borne out by the fact that the British railway boards that they sat on were firstly not linked with the L&SWR at any point physically, but also that they were generally small railways, insignificant in the highly developed railway industry. Thus, they would have little, if any affect on the L&SWR's business.

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