Angry flock turns on Sheppard

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The Independent Online

"Sheppard mind your flock - reduce rents," said the banner held high by Philis Morgan, landlady of the Beehive pub in Vauxhall. Inside the Great Room at the Grosvenor House hotel in London's Park Lane, the flock of several hundred shareholders at Grand Metropolitan's annual meeting was indeed restless and refused to placated by well-worn defenses of directors' pay.

The annual protest outside and during the meeting by publicans tied to Inntrepreneur, the pub company jointly owned by Grand Met and Courage, was almost consumed by outrage against directors' pay. This, perhaps, was the toughest of annual meetings endured by Lord Sheppard, the chairman of Grand Met, who earned a basic salary of £810,000 last year, over £1m with bonuses and various share option schemes.

"It is of great sadness to me that the good concept of share options has been handled in such a way that it has become obscenity," said Mr Eves, a shareholder since 1970.

Lord Sheppard seemed stung. "I have come from an industry and a company that has failed," he replied in reference to his former days in the motor industry. "If you want me to be chairman of a company that does that, the I quit here and now."

Attempts by Dick Giordano, the non-executive director who heads the remuneration committee, to further justify Grand Met's recent tinkering with the executive share option scheme spurred further attacks.

"Grand Met's shares have fallen in the last two years by 16 per cent, while the FT-SE 100 share index has risen by 6 per cent. Let's contrast this with directors' remuneration, especially the chairman," said John Archer, a shareholder.

Lord Sheppard, who retires next year, said: "I don't think I should talk about my own remuneration. I agree that the share price is terrible. We will continue to do the right long-term things, and eventually the market will reflect that."

But the Beehive's landlady feard for the short term. "My rent has risen from £13,000 four years ago to £29,000. I can't pay at £29,000, and next year it goes up to £30,000," she said.