Column Eight: Small print, big figures

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The Independent Online
Something of a bonanza for a fortunate few, we hear, at the Sheffield engineering company James Wilkes. Four months after giving its abruptly departing chairman, Stephen Hinchliffe, a pounds 533,000 pay-off, the group is showering money on more exiting directors.

Andrew Hartley, the company secretary, trousers a handy pounds 251,000. Chris Harrison, the finance director, pockets pounds 188,000. The pay-offs are detailed in the small print of Wilkes's circular to shareholders seeking approval to sell its beer mats division.

The company, which fought off a takeover by Petrocon earlier this year, will have paid more than pounds 1m to dismissed directors. This is rather more than its entire after-tax earnings of pounds 990,000 last year.

Arthur Watt, chairman, says the payments were made on the advice of its merchant bank advisers, Rothschild. 'The directors had contracts which we were legally obliged to meet.'

Incidentally, the departing trio are no strangers to leaving presents. Together they were recipients of the bulk of pounds 131,000 in compensation to former directors of Lynx Holdings, a company that used to share premises with Wilkes.

Wellcome Trust is accepting shares in 450 of the largest UK companies in lieu of cash in order to drum up institutional demand for the forthcoming Wellcome share issue.

But the swap administrators, Barclays de Zoete Wedd, have turned up their noses at certain stocks. A warm hand, please, for: Ratners, WPP, Mirror Group Newspapers, Amber Day and Brent Walker.

After our sighting of falcons (probably) at Canary Wharf this week, we hear that 40 rare Daubentin bats are nesting in the crevices of the arches of a railway viaduct north of Montrose. British Rail, after a plea from Scottish nature lovers, has agreed not to repoint the brickwork.

Rupert Murdoch's attempt to export the style and values of the Sun to eastern Germany has failed. His brash tabloid, the soaraway Super], has fallen to earth, closing yesterday because of heavy losses.

One is intrigued to learn that the BBC Pension Fund has bought a 3.8 per cent stake in Manchester United. Could this be related to the fact that when Auntie and BSkyB won the battle to show the Premier League, Manchester United was one of the clubs to vote against the deal?

Sir Graham Day has a jaundiced view of why anyone would want to buy him a drink. The Cadbury Schweppes chairman, quoted in the newly published A Head for Business, has this tip for budding managers: 'Stay sober. Loose lips sink ships; so when you're being entertained remember it's because somebody is trying to sell you something.'

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