Michael Herlihy


The Testing Point

After studying Law and English Literature at Oxford, Michael Herlihy qualified as a solicitor in 1977. He spent most of his early career with the multinational chemical company Imperial Chemical Industries PLC (ICI) in a variety of legal and financial roles, including leading the tax work on the 1993 demerger of the Zeneca Pharmaceuticals business – now part of Astra Zeneca.

He was appointed ICI General Counsel in 1996 and, additionally, Executive Vice President, Mergers & Acquisitions in 2000, in which roles he led much of the activity around ICI’s attempted strategic transformation into a specialty and effects chemicals business. (100 + deals globally with a value in excess of £15b.)

He also led the company’s defence of major product liability, anti-trust, environmental and shareholder litigation, predominantly in the US but with major cases also in Europe/the UK.

As General Counsel he attended all Board and Audit Committee meetings.

After retiring from ICI in 2005, he became an independent director on the boards of a US owned private equity company and an AIM listed Indian film animation business whilst also sitting on the Advisory Council for the Centre for Commercial Legal Studies at Queen Mary College, University of London.

In 2007 he joined the board of Imperial Tobacco plc (now Imperial Brands) serving on the Audit, Nominations and Remuneration Committees, the last of which he chaired from 2010 before becoming Senior Independent Director between 2014-17.

In 2008 he joined Smiths Group plc, the international engineering conglomerate, as its General Counsel, where he led efforts to upgrade the company’s risk and compliance activities, leaving in 2018 to become an independent director at the John Lewis Partnership – a food and general merchandise retailer and the UK’s largest employee-owned business.

Since retiring in 2021, Michael has co-written/co-produced the film ‘The Testing Point’ and has recently published a business memoir called ‘Taking Down the Tents.’