Purpose ‐ This study aims to focus on the accountability of organizations to multiple stakeholders with differing interests and power, where there is an absence of accountability towards shareholders. Design/methodology/approach ‐ Longitudinal field study via participant-observation. Findings ‐ The study focuses on the relations between the subsidiary and the parent boards and how a governance improvement plan affected the internal dynamics of the organization and helped to clarify the demands of multiple stakeholders. A stakeholder-agency model is developed which emphasises the role of governance, the importance of structure and process, and the culture or ethos of boards in which multiple stakeholders may have compatible rather than competing interests. Originality/value ‐ The paper focuses on the quasi-public sector and develops stakeholder-agency theory by identifying governance at the centre of differing relationships with stakeholders with unequal salience where there is both an economic concern with efficiency and a broader social concern.