The shareholder revolt sweeping through the City claimed its biggest scalp yesterday when Andrew Moss abruptly quit as the boss of giant insurer Aviva, a move cushioned by a pay-off of £1.75m.
Mr Moss is the third top corporate head to bow to the growing wrath of City shareholders in the past few days.
His immediate departure as chief executive followed a stunning rebellion last week by investors that rejected executive pay by a 60 per cent majority.
Sly Bailey of Trinity Mirror and David Brennan from AstraZeneca have also been forced to step down in the face of fury from investors that executive pay has remained high even as shareholder returns plummeted.
John McFarlane, chairman designate, will become temporary executive deputy chairman and executive chairman from July while the insurer searches for a permanent replacement.
Immediately in the frame were former RSA boss Andy Haste and Igor Mayer, recently ousted as part of Mr Moss's latest shake-up. Aviva said that Mr Moss had taken the decision to step down because "he felt it was in the best interests of the company that he step aside to make way for new leadership".
The "financial terms" of his departure, while excellent for those outside the top echelons of corporate life, indicate a shift in sentiment towards executive pay and pay-offs. He gets a year's salary, just less than £1m, and another £300,000 in settlement of all claims he may have had to future bonuses. He gets an extra pension benefit worth £209,000, but other Long Term Incentive Plans will not vest.
The news of his departure was greeted with joy by unions and the City.
Barrie Cornes, a Panmure Gordon analyst, said: "The move will be welcomed by shareholders and follows a number of events at Aviva that can at best be described as 'unfortunate'. The shares should bounce ... further if Andy Haste's name becomes linked to the chief executive role."
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