Bumper pay rises for Granada chiefs

Gerry Robinson, the chairman of Granada Group, was paid pounds 728,000 in the year to September, a rise of 21 per cent, while the chief executive, Charles Allen, received a 53 per cent increase to pounds 531,000.

By comparison, outgoing chairman Alex Bernstein earned just pounds 210,000 in his last full year in the position.

Mr Robinson, who has said, famously, that he prefers to work just four- and-a-half days a week, was paid the equivalent of pounds 795,000 a year on the assumption of a half-day off a week.

The sharply higher figures were being seen in some quarters last night as an indication of a change in corporate style at the media, leisure and rentals conglomerate.

Analysts pointed out, for instance, that the company's head office had formerly been housed in modest offices in Golden Square. Following its successful takeover of Forte, the hotels and restaurants company for pounds 3.9bn early this year, Granada moved into Stornoway House, a mansion in a row of expensive buildings just off London's Green Park.

Despite having criticised Forte for its opulent corporate style during the bitter contested bid, Granada management has since decided to keep the Forte corporate jet and has a staff of company drivers for senior executives.

This was seen as being in marked contrast to the lean and supple image projected by Granada during the takeover. Sir Rocco Forte, the patrician chief executive of Forte, was criticised for having been on a shooting holiday in Yorkshire as the bid was being announced last year in London.

Both Mr Allen and Mr Robinson were also awarded share options exercisable between 1999 and 2006 at a price of 859.5p. Mr Allen received 199,000 options, while Mr Robinson was awarded 220,000.

In addition, Mr Allen has 268,500 "in-the-money" options exercisable at 190p, which were worth pounds 1.8m at yesterday's closing share price of 864p. Mr Robinson's valid options, exercisable at 184p, were worth nearly pounds 2.8m.

A Granada spokesman said the sharply higher remuneration reflected new responsibilities for both men and the fact that Granada now owns Forte, in addition to its media and rentals operations. "You either believe that Britain's top business people should be paid the going rate or you do not," he said.

Henry Staunton, the finance director, saw his salary rise more modestly to pounds 283,000 from pounds 253,000. Mr Staunton was also awarded 37,000 new options in the year, also exercisable at 859.5p. His valid options were worth just over pounds 800,000 at last night's closing price.

Granada has a policy of not paying bonuses, preferring a mixture of competitive salaries and share options. Senior executives receive benefits such as medical coverage, company cars and life assurance.

Company insiders stressed yesterday that the remuneration for senior executives was also linked to the extra burdens of overseeing the massive sell-off of Forte's hotel assets. Granada is selling the Exclusive Hotels, worth about pounds 900m, in a series of drawn-out negotiations. Most of the sales will not be completed until next year.

Granada has also earmarked for sale its Welcome Break motorway service assets. A sale is not expected before the new year, with Whitbread, the brewing giant, a likely contender.

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