The former chief executive of BSkyB, Sam Chisholm, topped this year's league table with a parting gift of pounds 2.8m. After leaving his full-time post in 1997 after seven years, he continued as boardroom part-timer until May when he received his huge "bonus" because his contract was ended early.
As Stephen Byers, Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, yesterday repeated his attack on boardroom excess in a speech to the annual conference of the CBI, the Labour Research Department released its annual survey which showed that a total of 126 directors left their jobs with "golden goodbyes" of pounds 100,000 or more. Four of them received over pounds 1m, the union- funded organisation found in its survey of company reports with financial years ending at or after June 1998.
The research group pointed out that the valedictory payments were not even the reward from a grateful company sorry to lose a director's services.
David Norman resigned as chief executive of BNB Resources, the recruitment group, over "differences of opinion" and walked away with pounds 796,000. Martin Greenwood received pounds 185,463 when he left his chief executive's post at DNB Resources by "mutual consent" and Philip Rogerson was paid pounds 200,000 when he quit the board of BG, the energy group, "by reason of redundancy".
The LRD report argues that some golden handshakes did not even reflect long service. Martin Taylor had been chief executive of Barclays Bank for around four years before leaving with pounds 1,588,000. He has since become part-time chairman of WH Smith on pounds 150,000 a year.
Over the last few years George Greener received two payments for leaving two companies worth a total of nearly pounds 2m. He resigned as chairman of Allied Dunbar with a pounds 1,291,719 handshake, according to LRD's 1997 survey and left Hillsdown Holdings with pounds 643,000 in the latest study.
Other beneficiaries of what LRD calls the "rolling corporate gravy train", were Deryk King who, having pocketed a pounds 1m handshake, joined the board of Ellis & Everard; John Garrett, who left Rank with pounds 600,000 and became part-time chairman of Waterfall Holdings and Stephen Davidson, who left Telewest with pounds 500,000 and joined the board of Enic, the leisure investment group.
The second-highest payment of pounds 1,709,493 was received by William Grant when he left SmithKline Beecham, the third by Mr Taylor of Barclays and the fourth by Charles Wightman of Walker Greenbank, who got pounds 1.3m.