BNFL boss's pounds 315,000 puts him at top of tree

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The chief executive of British Nuclear Fuels, John Taylor, has become the highest-paid head of a state-owned company with an annual pay package potentially worth pounds 315,000, it emerged yesterday.

BNFL's 1996 report and accounts show that Mr Taylor, who joined the nuclear waste reprocessing company in March from the oil group Exxon, will be paid a basic salary of pounds 225,000. In addition, he will be eligible for a performance-related bonus of up to 40 per cent which could net him a further pounds 90,000.

The previous chief executive, Neville Chamberlain, was paid a total of pounds 201,429 last year while BNFL made a contribution to his pension of pounds 16,995.

A spokesman said that BNFL, operator of the Sellafield plant in Cumbria, needed to pay a market rate to attract a candidate of Mr Taylor's experience and ability. He is on a one-year rolling contract and received no special joining fee or bonus to compensate him for loss of share options.

BNFL added that its boardroom remuneration practices fully complied with the Greenbury code. Mr Taylor's annual performance bonus will depend on hitting profit, cash flow, safety and environmental performance targets.

The company made a pre-tax profit of pounds 316m last year. The wages bill, including social security and pension costs, for its 13,451 staff was pounds 404m which works out at just over pounds 30,000 per employee. In 1994-95 the average wage cost was pounds 29,300.

Mr Taylor's pay makes him the best-rewarded chief executive of a state- owned industry. The next highest-paid post in a state-owned industry is chief executive of the Post Office.

Bill Cockburn, who held the job until last October, was paid pounds 256,740 including bonuses in his last full year. His successor, John Roberts, was paid a total of pounds 204,535 last year.

Sir Bob Reid was paid pounds 200,000 a year during his time as chairman of British Rail while Bob Hawley, the chief executive of the newly privatised British Energy, was paid a total of pounds 258,000 including bonuses in its last year as a state-owned business.

Mr Taylor, a chemical engineer by training, spent 26 years with Exxon Chemical rising to become the European vice-president of its polyolefins business. In 1995-96 he received pounds 18,750 basic pay for his one month with BNFL and a pension contribution of pounds 1,638.

John Guinness, BNFL's executive chairman, saw his pay, including bonuses, rise from pounds 104,837 to pounds 112,228. The highest paid non-executive director was Professor Alistair MacFarlane, the vice-chancellor of Heriot Watt University, who received pounds 17,000.