Finance

Phoenix chair Nick Lyons set to be elected as lord mayor of London

The chair of insurer Phoenix, Nick Lyons, is to take a one-year sabbatical after being elected as lord mayor of London for 2022.

Lyons won after an election today by the City of London Corporation’s Court of Aldermen, a group of 25 who represent different wards in the City.

Phoenix said Lyons would take a one-year sabbatical from the company from November 2022 to allow him to take up the role.

The company said he would be replaced by an interim chair selected from among the current members of its board.

Lyons saw off competition from former JPMorgan lawyer Tim Hailes to clinch the election.

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“The Court agreed that Nicholas Lyons shall be supported for the mayoralty in 2022/2023, subject to an election at Common Hall in 2022,” a letter published on the City Corporation’s website on 6 July said.

Hailes said in a statement that he intended to run again for the post of lord mayor. 

“I remain wholly committed to the civic City as alderman for the Ward of Bassishaw,” he said.

“As an active member of the policy and resource committee, the police authority board and chairman of the board of Lord Mayor’s Show Limited I will continue to proudly and enthusiastically play my full part in civic life.

“I look forward to supporting the mayoralty and shrievalty and I intend to seek the opportunity to serve in higher office in due course.”

The Common Hall is made up of senior members of the City’s livery companies. It will meet later in the year to recommend two candidates for the post of lord mayor. The Court of Alderman will then elect one of the two for the role. A person familiar with the matter said it would be “unusual” for Lyons not to become lord mayor after receving the backing of the court of alderman today.

Lyons has also been appointed sheriff for 2021, the announcement said. Alderman are required to serve as sheriff before they can become lord mayor.

The election process has been marked by controversy, with the Financial Times reporting that questions had been raised over whether Lyons was eligible for the role as he is an Irish citizen.

After taking legal advice the Corporation ruled that Lyons was eligible for the post as he is an EU citizen.

Hailes — who is openly gay — stood previously for the role in 2019. Controversially he was asked about his sexuality in his interview for the post in 2019 and asked if his mayoralty risked being “hijacked” by the gay community, the FT reported.

The post of lord mayor is a largely ceremonial one, acting as the figurehead for the City of London both at home and overseas.

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The current lord mayor William Russell is serving an additional year in office until the end of November because of the Covid-19 crisis. Russell is a former Merrill Lynch banker and was previously a member of the advisory board of fintech industry body Innovate Finance.

Russell will be succeeded as lord mayor in December by DLA Piper finance partner Vincent Keaveny.

To contact the author of this story with feedback or news, email James Booth

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