Biotech rejects calls to halt legal action

THE BOARD of British Biotech, the troubled drug development group, yesterday rejected shareholders' calls to drop the legal action against Dr Andrew Millar, the whistleblower sacked in April.

The demands came as it emerged that Dr Keith McCullagh, Dr Millar's main rival who yesterday stepped down as chief executive, received a payoff of pounds 672,000.

At a shareholders' meeting marked by strict security measures to segregate the media pack from participants, investors gave the board a 40-minute grilling over the action against Dr Millar, the former head of clinical research who was dismissed after voicing doubts over two of the company's star drugs to one institution.

The bitter battle between Dr Millar, who lifted the secrecy on trials of the company's pancreatitis drug Zacutex and the anti-cancer treatment Marimastat, and Dr McCullagh, caused a collapse in British Biotech's share price and two investigations by US and UK stock market regulators. The company is suing Dr Millar in the High Court for breach of contract.

John Williams, one shareholder asked the board: "In view of the bad PR, in view of the high costs, can you tell me exactly what you hope to gain [from suing Dr Millar]?"

Another investor said: "The share price is a disaster. The litigation with Dr Millar is something we should not be bothered with. It is a small blip. How much would it cost to settle?"

The chairman, John Raisman, replied: "There are very strong grounds for the actions and possibly substantial damages to be recovered."

However, Mr Raisman, who is set to step down at the end of the month, held out the possibility that the company could settle the case at a later stage. He added: "It will clearly have to be on realistic terms. I don't think any realistic terms have been proposed."

Dr Millar is understood to have asked for around pounds 90,000 to settle the case. The company said that Dr McCullagh's leaving package will include one year's salary, worth pounds 430,000, plus a one-off payment of pounds 242,000 to his pension fund.

He will be replaced by Elliott Goldstein, a former executive at SmithKline Beecham. Christopher Hampson, chairman of building materials group RMC, will take over as chairman.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Evening Administrator

£8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This Pension Specialist was established early...

Guru Careers: Executive Assistant / PA

£30 - 35k + Bonus & Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking an Executive Assist...

Ashdown Group: Graduate Application Support Analyst

£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A global leader operating...

Reach Volunteering: External Finance Trustee Needed!

Voluntary post, reasonable expenses reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: Would you ...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot