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02 November 1999

The men with the Midas touch
Former BSkyB boss Sam Chisolm topped this year's table of golden handshakes produced by Labour Research magazine, with a leaving gift of ?2.8 million after less than 10 years in the job.

The annual Labour Research survey published today reveals that executive golden handshakes have not lost their glister, despite concerned noises by the Labour government.

A total of 126 directors left their jobs with parting gifts of ?100,000 or more in the 1997-98, four of them receiving over ?1 million.

In some cases they are not even the reward from a grateful company sorry to lose a director's services, according to company annual reports.

David Norman (?796,000) resigned as chief executive of recruitment group BNB Resources over "differences of opinion" in the boardroom and Martin Greenwood (?185, 463) left his chief executive's post at finance support group DNB Resources by "mutual consent. Philip Rogerson (?200,000) of energy group BG, on the other hand, ceased to be a director "by reason of redundancy".

Trade and industry secretary Stephen Byers has raised concerns about executives receiving big pay-offs for failure. "I am sure most find it unacceptable that some directors can get huge rewards for failure," he said in a consultation document which sets out measures to tackle this.

And neither are they necessarily the reward for long service. For example, Martin Taylor had been chief executive of Barclays bank for only around four years before leaving with a ?1,588,000 golden handshake.

And a golden goodbye seems to mean "au revoir" rather than "adieu", as it does not necessarily signal the end of someone's career.

For example, George Greener, whom the latest survey showed left Hillsdown Holdings with ?643,000, also featured in Labour Research's 1997 survey of golden handshakes. That survey revealed that he had resigned as chair of insurance group Allied Dunbar with a golden handshake of ?1,291,719 including pension contributions. Three months after the boardroom door closed on him there, another door opened and he joined Hillsdown.

Greener is not the only beneficiary of this rolling corporate gravy train. For example, since leaving Barclays with his ?1.5 million Martin Taylor has become the ?150,000-a-year part-time chair of WH Smith. In the same month Deryk King, after pocketing his near-?1 million handshake, joined the board of chemicals group Ellis & Everard. John Garrett, after leaving one leisure group, Rank, with ?600,000, became the part-time chair of another, Waterfall Holdings. And Stephen Davidson, since leaving media group Telewest with ?500,000, has joined the board of leisure investment group ENIC.

Notes to editors

The survey covers golden handshakes reported in the annual reports of companies with financial years ending at or after June 1998.
A list of all directors receiving golden handshakes of ?100,000 or more and further details are published in the November 1999 issue of Labour Research. The price of a single copy is ?2.70 (?3 including postage).
The Labour Research Department is an independent trade union and labour movement organisation founded 88 years ago. More than 2,000 trade union organisations, including 55 national unions, representing 99% of total TUC membership are affiliated.
For further information contact Neal Moister on 0171 902 9818.

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