TYCOON Lee Ming-tee's Allied group of companies aims to make independent directors the majority on all its boards. ''I think, strange as it might seem, there are a number of things the Allied Group has done which actually put us ahead of the wishes of regulatory authority or the corporate governance movement,'' said Allied Group chief executive Mr Brian O'Connor. ''My view is very strongly that the regulatory authority is right and there should be non-executive directors on all these public company boards.'' Independent non-executives would be brought in to the boards of Allied Industries and Allied Properties and the independence of the Allied Group board would be strengthened with the appointment of a new non-executive director with an international profile. ''Our intention is to have a majority of independents on each of these boards,'' said Mr O'Connor. Three independent non-executives were appointed to the Allied Group board last month. ''We are well ahead of the game here. The regulatory authorities recommended the appointment of two non-executives to all public companies in Hongkong. I think we are now ahead of the wishes of the regulatory authorities,'' he added. Mr O'Connor said the company had already set up an audit committee and appointed Ernst and Young's Mr John Crawford to assist it. ''Our auditors are Deloittes. It is quite unusual to have senior person from another audit firm sitting on the audit committee, but we did that to ensure that the job of the audit committee was done while I was putting non-execs in place. ''Second, it was to reassure people that Allied was determined to follow good corporate governance.'' Mr O'Connor's remarks were in response to an article in last week's Sunday Money which addressed the issue of independent directors. ''Independent means people who have had no dealing with the company in the past and don't hold shares in the company [at the time of the appointment],'' said Mr O'Connor. Mr Lau Wah-sum, Sir Gordon Macwhinnie and Mr Wong Po-yan were appointed as non-executive directors to Allied Group in March. ''They are very independent individuals. They are men of integrity. They aren't going to allow themselves to do anything they don't want to do, and that is why they are there.'' The Allied Group is currently under investigation by inspectors appointed by the Financial Secretary. Mr O'Connor said it was ''partly true'' that the investigation had prompted changes at the company. Moves toward greater transparency at the group had already been underway. ''The investigation has accelerated those [moves] and I guess my arrival has accelerated those,'' he added. ''We are co-operating fully with the inspector. In doing that we have to provide answers to the many questions. It is fair to say it has slowed us down and we would like to see the investigation conclude as quickly as possible so we can spend 100 per cent of our time on doing what we want to do, which is to make a lot of money for our shareholders.'' During the last year the company has made a number of disposals of assets. Its most recent deal was the $314-million sale of Santai Manufacturing earlier this month to a consortium of Cheung Kong, Shougang and CEF Holdings. The deal was put together in 48 hours, after a move to sell control of Santai to mainland firm Shenzhen Electronics Group fell through. ''One of the things that was clear was that the structure of the group was difficult to understand. Last September we had a number of other public companies. Since my arrival we have disposed of Tung Wing Steel, Asia Securities, Guardforce and Santai. ''What will be left is a structure which is not difficult for anyone to understand; essentially three listed companies,'' said Mr O'Connor. ''We now have internally a very clear picture of where we want to go with each of these companies. We have the team to do it, we also have the resources to do it because we have realised a great deal of cash from each of the disposals.''