Chairman of Scottish Opera Will Step Down 'To Give Fresh Thinking a Chance'
Saturday, July 24, 2004
The Scotsman [Edinburgh]
By Jim McBeth
Duncan McGhie, the chairman of Scottish Opera, who has just guided the company through the most turbulent period in its history, is standing down.
Mr. McGhie, 59, who is also the chairman of Scottish Ballet, announced his departure yesterday, but he denied his decision was influenced by anything other than a desire to "lower his golf handicap".
He had, he said, advised Scottish Opera, Scottish Ballet, the Scottish Arts Council and the Scottish Executive "some time ago" that he intended to go on 31 March next year.
There were calls last month for Mr. McGhie's resignation after Scottish Opera's decision to cut 88 full-time jobs ó half the company's staff ó to ensure its long-term survival.
There were also indications that Scottish Opera's board was becoming restive, although it unanimously backed a business plan in which the board accepted a radical programme of restructuring, in return for a £7 million bail-out from the Scottish Executive.
The unions, representing Scottish Opera's chorus and technical staff, called for Mr. McGhie to resign, along with the chief executive, Christopher Barron, and Sir Richard Armstrong, the music director.
They accused the management of failing to steer Scottish Opera out of trouble and of running up a £4.5 million debt that forced the Executive's intervention.
But Mr. McGhie, appointed chairman of both boards in 1999, said: "There are no angles on this. I told the boards, the [Scottish Arts] Council and Mr. McAveety [Scottish minister for tourism and culture] I was going. "It is time to give fresh thinking a chance."
However, insiders believe that Mr. McGhie will leave with a "sense of regret"."He was pro-active and supportive, but the man in charge is head of blame, even though few would claim he was the author of the company's misfortunes," said one. It did look for a time as if the company was doomed.
Next season, Scottish Opera will create six productions. However, in June 2005, major production will halt for nine months. Insiders believe the hiatus is a natural time for others on the board to go. One of them said yesterday: "I don't think Mr. McGhie will be only person to leave next year."
As part of the restructuring, Scottish Opera and Scottish Ballet, currently run as a single company, will split. And Mr. McGhie opposed any suggestion that he might be leaving a sinking ship. "The ships are anything but sinking," he said, and added: "Sadly, the jigsaw is not as big as I would have liked, but the pieces are still there and there is a platform for the future.
"As for Scottish Ballet, I am pleased to leave an exciting dance company, and I've been involved, in my small way, to help it reach a new plateau.
"During five busy but rewarding years, much has been achieved," Mr. McGhie went on. "I am, however, keen to let others develop new ideas and strategies for the long-term good of Scottish Ballet and Scottish Opera.
"All of the present directors believe that the opportunity for both companies to have a separate chair and separate directors is in the best interests of the companies." A "head-hunting" company, Odgers Ray and Berndtson, has been appointed to find replacements for Mr. McGhie.
Prior to his appointment, Mr McGhie was a management consultant specialising in strategic change and business effectiveness. He retired from PricewaterhouseCoopers at the end of June 2000.
The culture minister, Frank McAveety, was on holiday yesterday and unavailable for comment.
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