CBI appoints business productivity chief as next director-general

The CBI has appointed Tony Danker, a business productivity chief and former Guardian executive, to lead the UK’s largest employers’ group, replacing Carolyn Fairbairn who steps down after her five-year term comes to an end this year.

Mr Danker is the chief executive of Be the Business, a non-profit business organisation set up to help drive productivity in the UK by Charlie Mayfield, the former John Lewis chairman. Mr Danker will take over in November from Dame Carolyn, who had agreed to extend her term by two months during the coronavirus crisis.

Mr Danker will become director-general of the group just as the CBI faces renewed pressure from its members to engage with the government over Brexit while also dealing with the likely lasting economic impact of the coronavirus crisis.

Many CBI members are still concerned by the government’s approach to the UK’s departure from the EU, and the fallout on business and the economy should the UK leave without a deal in January.

Tony Danker

This stance caused friction between the CBI and the government last year, although relations have improved during the pandemic as the employers’ group has supported government efforts to protect businesses.

Mr Danker was appointed the first chief executive of Be the Business in 2017. He was previously the strategy chief at Guardian News & Media, responsible for expanding the Guardian’s global business and its restructuring plan. Before then, he was a special adviser at the Cabinet Office and HM Treasury. He has also worked at McKinsey. 

Next week, the CBI will host its AGM, at which Karan Bilimoria, the Cobra Beer boss, is expected to succeed Tesco chairman John Allan as CBI president.

Lord Bilimoria said: “Tony has the experience and skills needed to help lead the CBI in what will then be a critical term ahead as Britain recovers from this shock and returns to growth and competitiveness.”


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