Shriti Vadera has been named the new chairwoman of the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC), becoming the first female and person of colour to fill the role.
The former investment banker will take over in August from Nigel Hugill, who is stepping down after a decade, as the company faces the challenges of its expected return to work following lockdown.
Ms Vadera was born in Uganda before her family fled the country when Asians were expelled by Idi Amin.
She was recently appointed chairwoman of Prudential and was previously chairwoman of Santander UK.
Under Gordon Brown, she served as parliamentary under-secretary of state in the Department for International Development.
Ms Vadera has also served on the boards of pharmaceuticals company AstraZeneca and mining giant BHP, and is a member of the House of Lords, on leave of absence since 2011.
Addressing her appointment, she said: “I grew up in Uganda and India, in a traditional community where expectations of the development of girls were narrow and strict.
“I read and imagined Shakespeare before I saw it performed and it opened up a different world, giving me the courage to aspire to possibilities that transformed my life.
“I am passionate about the arts and the impact they can have on the lives of individuals and communities.
“I have long been a supporter of the RSC, a company rooted in history and which is modern, innovative and dynamic, uniquely national but also global.
“It is a company that is dedicated to the excellence of its art while being acutely aware of its wider roles and responsibilities.
“As the RSC emerges from one of its most difficult years, responding to the global pandemic, I am excited to be supporting and championing the RSC as its new chair and to look to the future. It is a joy and an honour.”
Outgoing chairman Mr Hugill said: “When you step down as chair from a place that you care about so deeply, you want to be able to anticipate ongoing success with confidence and to know that responsibility is being passed on to the best of hands.
“Shriti Vadera believes strongly in the company’s teaching, values and reach and is a marvellous choice as next chair of the RSC. I could not be more delighted.”
The selection process was led by deputy chairwoman Miranda Curtis, working with search firm Perrett Laver.
The brief was to identify a candidate who was a “highly experienced, inclusive leader, committed to the company’s vision, mission and values” with a “proven track record of leading an organisation through significant strategic transformation”.
Ms Curtis said: “In a highly competitive field, Shriti stood out for her professionalism and relevant experience, her profound passion for Shakespeare and the transformative power of theatre, her clarity of vision and understanding of the strategic challenges facing the RSC, and her personal warmth.”