The magical effect of putting a famous face on a company’s board

by The Economist, March 30, 2010.

In March 1998 the Coca-Cola Bottling Company announced the appointment of a most unlikely new director to its board: Evander Holyfield, a former heavyweight boxing champion, best-known for having part of his ear bitten off in a bout by a fellow boxer, Mike Tyson. He was not the only top athlete at the time with a seat in the boardroom: Michael Jordan, a celebrated basketball player, was a director of Oakley, a sunglasses manufacturer. Other sports stars to try their hand at directing corporate America in the past 25 years include Billie Jean King, a tennis player appointed to the board of Altria (then called Philip Morris) in 1999 and Nancy Lopez, a golfer, who became a director of J.M. Smucker, a jam-maker, in 2006.

Boards have also recruited from the ranks of Hollywood. Disney appointed Sidney Poitier to its board in 1994, for example. Deepak Chopra, an author and lifestyle guru, was recruited to the board of Men’s Wearhouse, a suit retailer, in 2004. Stretching the definition of celebrity a bit, General “Stormin’” Norman Schwarzkopf was appointed a director by the Home Shopping Network in 1996. And you can take your pick from scores of politicians-turned-directors, including Al Gore, a former vice-president and a member of Apple’s board since 2003…(continue reading)

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