Analysts move to Salomon for pounds 1m

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The Independent Online

Media Editor

The City's top media analysts, Richard Dale and David Forster, have left Merrill Lynch to join Salomon Brothers, at an annual salary plus bonus and other benefits said to be as high as pounds 1m between them.

Their departure will be a blow to Merrill Lynch, which last year bought UK broker Smith New Court and had hoped to keep some of its highly rated staff. It had even paid "loyalty" bonuses to key people, including Mr Dale, who had joined Smith New Court in 1991.

Mr Forster and Mr Dale last year topped the Extel list of top City analysts for their coverage of the UK media industry. The two, along with Ivor Jones, will be responsible at Salomon for covering UK and European media developments.

Dale "is an excellent analyst, and a great communicator," a competitor said yesterday.

Neither Mr Dale nor Mr Forster would comment yesterday but other media analysts suggested they had been unhappy with the level of interference from Merrill Lynch's senior analysts, including those based in New York.

"They didn't like being told by some telecoms guy in New York how to cover contract publishing in the UK," said one analyst.

Added a Merrill Lynch insider: "there are clearly a lot of prima donnas around."

Speaking to clients during an investment conference held by WPP, the advertising company, yesterday, Mr Dale was overheard telling a client that he was not going for the money.

"Yeah," the client responded. "And you like Pamela Anderson for her mind."

Mssrs Forster and Dale were said to have been paid a total of pounds 500,000 a year at Merrill Lynch-Smith New Court, including base salary, bonus, car, pension and mortgage subsidy. While base salary at Salomon is believed to be lower, other incentives inflate the total.

According to City sources, the high premium offered by Salomon was aimed at overcoming concerns that the US-owned bank had no profile in media research.

Salomon has been recruiting for media analysts since last October, with little success.