Brian Main Headshot

Professor of Business Economics

+44 (0)131 650 8360


BSc (St Andrews); MBA (California, Berkeley); MA (California, Berkeley); PhD (California, Berkeley).

Worked as a physicist for the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority before attending the University of California, Berkeley, for his MBA. Subsequently worked as Production Planning Manager in the pharmaceutical industry for the Eli Lilly Corporation, before returning to Berkeley to complete a PhD.

Has been an academic at the University of Edinburgh since 1976, save for a four year period (1987-91) when he was Chairman of the School of Economics at the University of St Andrews. Has also served as Head of the School of Economics at Edinburgh in 1991-93 and again in 1995-97. Was Head of the Economics, Business Studies and Accounting and Business Method "Planning Unit" in 1995-96, and Director of Post-Graduate Studies in the Business School (2005-2007). Between 1995 and 2008 he was Director and then Academic Director of The David Hume Institute.

Primary areas of research are human resources, top executive pay and negotiation. Has published many well-known research papers including a series in the 1980s on unemployment (joint with George Akerlof, Nobel Prize Winner in Economics, 2001) and in the 1990s a series on top executive pay with Charles O’Reilly (Stanford Graduate Business School). His work in negotiation has used experimental economics to study pre-trial negotiation and the influence of various types of cost-shifting rules and related settlement devices. Studies in top executive pay have investigated the use of executive share options, tournament-like incentive structures and the impact of boardroom committees, the remuneration committee in particular. Recent research projects have been supported by the ESRC and by the Leverhulme Trust and his current research focuses: (i) on the notion of “Career Shares” as a payment mechanism for executives, and (ii) on the treatment of women directors on company boards.

Personal Website:

Has research links with:

  • Department of Economics, University of Newcastle;
  • Graduate School of Business at Stanford University, California;

Research Interests

  • Top Executive Pay
  • New Economics of Personnel

Research Fingerprint

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Research Area