Big payoff for Pearson US chief

PEARSON is to pay a $550,000 (pounds 329,340) bonus to the director who helped mastermind the media group's disastrous acquisition of the Mindscape computer games firm.

David Veit will retire from the board at the group's annual general meeting in May, at the age of 59. However, Pearson's annual report discloses that Mr Veit's contract has been terminated early, triggering a payoff equivalent to one year's salary.

Since 1985, Mr Veit has been Pearson's most senior director in the US. He also served as deputy managing director to Frank Barlow, who retired last year.

Mr Veit was closely involved with the catastrophic acquisition in 1994 of Mindscape, the computer games firm, in 1994. Pearson spent about pounds 300m buying and building up the business, only to watch it crash into the red. Mindscape was eventually sold for pounds 90m last month.

As head of Pearson in the US Mr Veit was also ultimately responsible for Penguin USA, the American arm of Pearson's publishing subsidiary, though he was not involved in the day-to-day running of the business. Last year, Pearson uncovered an elaborate accounting fraud at Penguin USA and was forced to take a pounds 100m charge against its profits.

Mr Veit was paid a total salary of pounds 392,000 in 1997, a 29 per cent increase on the previous year. On retirement, he is entitled to a pension of pounds 218,000 a year.