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At 31, Chelsea Clinton joins a corporate board

Bob Moon Sep 27, 2011

At 31, Chelsea Clinton joins a corporate board

Bob Moon Sep 27, 2011

Kai Ryssdal: Chelsea Clinton — yes, that Chelsea Clinton — has a new job. Not one that most people her age would get; she’s 31 now.

She’s joined the board of directors of the big digital media conglomerate IAC/InterActive. That’s the company behind more than 50 Internet brands you know, including Match.com and The Daily Beast.

She gets a $250,000 stock grant for her troubles, plus a $50,000-a-year retainer. And, as our senior business correspondent Bob Moon reports, investors in IAC will be getting their youngest board member yet.

Bob Moon: She’s lived most of her life in the public eye, but she doesn’t have much experience with public companies. Chelsea Clinton has been a board member for several nonprofits, but now she’ll be watching over a company with a market value of nearly $3.5 billion.

Charles Elson: In any situation where someone with a well-known name — who is, you know, well-known and is young — goes on a board, the question is, are they there to represent shareholder interest, or are they there for other reasons?

That’s Charles Elson, who heads the University of Delaware’s Center for Corporate Governance.

IAC says Chelsea Clinton’s appointment had nothing to do with her family’s close personal ties to media mogul Barry Diller, IAC’s founder. Diller has supported the presidential campaigns of both her father and mother. And the Financial Times pointed out Chelsea and her mother have often been dressed by fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg, who’s Diller’s wife.

IAC calls Ms. Clinton “keenly intelligent” and says she’ll be a strong contributor. She’ll also be the company’s youngest board member by seven years. Again, Charles Elson:

Elson: Someone can be young and have lots of experience. Someone can be young and have understanding of the industry in which the company finds itself. The issue isn’t youth. The issue is, is this the right person to be an effective monitor?

Some studies suggest companies often perform better with younger board members. Researchers have found them to be more innovative, technically savvy and less bound by the status quo. But at GMI Research, Paul Hodgson says he’s found it’s better if directors are neither too old, nor too young.

Paul Hodgson: To be perfectly honest, at the two extremes, the governance issues that were raised by the appointments of both the very old and the very young directors were about the same.

A report from Institutional Shareholder Services found that in the past four years, at least 100 people born since 1977 have joined the boards of public companies — four of them when they were just 24.

I’m Bob Moon for Marketplace.

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