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British Biotech pays out in legal battle

BRITISH BIOTECH yesterday withdrew its claims against Andrew Millar, the company's former director of clinical research who claimed that it had made misleading statements about the company's prospects, and agreed to pay a settlement thought to be worth pounds 500,000.

Dr Millar and British Biotech, which was suing him for breach of contract and confidentiality, issued a joint statement yesterday leaving latitude for interpretation. It said: "British Biotech has withdrawn its claims and allegations of improper behaviour and Dr Millar has agreed not to continue with his proceedings against British Biotech."

Although Dr Millar has dropped his legal action for wrongful dismissal and defamation, the statement was silent as to his earlier claims that British Biotech, which is under new management, was being profligate with shareholder funds. Yesterday Dr Millar said the company had been a "charade".

"He has not withdrawn those comments, though as far as he is concerned they are history," said Andrew Keltie, partner at Baker & McKenzie, the solicitors acting for Dr Millar.

Dr Millar's personal settlement is believed to be substantially higher than an earlier offer from British Biotech of pounds 120,000. The company is also to pay his legal fees, thought to be pounds 300,000.

Both parties declined to give details of the settlement. However, Dr Millar said: "From my point of view, given what they tried to inflict on me, it's fair."

The agreement was signed yesterday afternoon following months of wrangling. A spokeswoman for British Biotech said: "This is a settlement, not a judgment of either side. British Biotech has always said it wanted a settlement as long as a mutual basis could be found. It's been a complicated process with no particular sticking point."

Dr Millar said: "I am grateful to Chris Hampson [British Biotech's new chairman] for settling and wish him and the company the best of luck in the future."

The affair began last March after Dr Millar, as director of clinical research, said he had inspected trial data for the company's Zacutex pancreatic and Marimastat cancer drugs that convinced him its optimism over the drugs was misplaced.