Controversy over fat cats dogs Brown to the end

Cedric the Pig is indisposed but shareholders still unleash volleys of criticism during British Gas agm

Cedric Brown, the controversial British Gas chief executive, finally stepped down from the company yesterday, although criticism of his pay, generous pension and stewardship of the accident-prone group dogged him to the end.

Speaking after the company's poorly attended annual meeting in Birmingham, Mr Brown said he planned to have a few days off, take up fishing and possibly write a book.

"I'm going to enjoy life and spend some time with my family who have been very supportive."

Asked if he was proud of what he had achieved at the company that he joined 43 years ago he said: "I achieved what I set out to do. But others will have to judge."

He admitted that the 'fat cat' pay row had wounded him but refused to apologise for the embarrassment the scandal had caused the company.

"Some of it did hurt. If you are a human being it is going to. There are probably very few business people that have experienced that kind of thing. We're not trained for it. But you learn to cope with it and learn a lot about yourself."

Mr Brown, whose 75 per cent pay increase in 1994 sparked the 'fat cat' controversy, declined to say whether he felt relief or sadness on his last day. "I am going to look back at the whole 43 years and put the last two years in context. There's been a lot written about it and there's nothing more I can say."

Mr Brown's retirement will be cushioned by a pounds 240,000 annual pension and a pounds 120,000 consultancy fee, as well as a chauffeur-driven car and staffed office. Although he has more than 700,000 share options, most are worthless due to the low level of the British Gas share price.

British Gas had been braced for a large and unruly shareholders' meeting after last year's event when nearly 5,000 investors descended on the Docklands Arena in London and a 20-stone pig gorged itself on a trough of share options. This time only 500 turned up and Cedric the pig couldn't make it. The sow is heavily pregnant and was deemed unfit for travel.

Shareholders complained about the early 10am start and many were late, saying they couldn't find the National Exhibition Centre. British Gas denied that it had deliberately timed the start to prevent a larger turn- out and a potential repeat of last year's fiasco.

Shareholders were divided in their opinion of Cedric Brown's performance as chief executive. Most displayed a mixture of either anger or pity. Noel Falconer, a small shareholder who failed in his bid to be elected to the board, was the most vocal. "Cedric Brown has been a disaster as a chief executive. He is a super engineer but he was promoted beyond his capabilities."

Another shareholder called for the whole board to resign: "1995 was disastrous for the reputation and image of British Gas and I believe the directors are to blame. They have made this company a laughing stock. Why don't they all just go now?" However, the chairman, Richard Giordano, said the board was committed to carrying on.

Mr Brown did have some supporters. Mr Gibson from Glasgow said: "I am genuinely sorry to see Cedric Brown go today. The man has given 40 years to this company, boy and man, and we should recognise that." Polite applause followed.

Dennis Blakemore, a former water industry worker, who had cycled 23 miles from Stratford-upon-Avon to attend the meeting, was more critical, saying: "I'd like just a fraction of his pension. There must be people who could do a better job. I invested in this company as a kind of little Sid and have been waiting for the better times to come. They never have."

The company's customer service levels were also criticised as new figures from the Gas Consumers Council showed complaints about the firm's supply and service had doubled in 1995.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Sport
sportSo, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Arts and Entertainment
Dennis speaks to his French teacher
tvThe Boy in the Dress, TV review
News
One father who couldn't get One Direction tickets for his daughters phoned in a fake bomb threat and served eight months in a federal prison
people... (and one very unlucky giraffe)
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
The Plaza Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia was one of the 300 US cinemas screening
filmTim Walker settles down to watch the controversial gross-out satire
Arts and Entertainment
Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz in Tim Burton's Big Eyes
film reviewThis is Tim Burton’s most intimate and subtle film for a decade
Life and Style
Mark's crab tarts are just the right size
food + drinkMark Hix cooks up some snacks that pack a punch
Arts and Entertainment
Jack O'Connell stars as Louis Zamperini in Angelina Jolie's Unbroken
film review... even if Jack O'Connell is excellent
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant- NY- Investment Bank

Not specified: Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant Top tier investment bank i...

Selby Jennings: Quantitative Research | Equity | New York

Not specified: Selby Jennings: Quantitative Research | Global Equity | New Yor...

Selby Jennings: SVP Model Validation

Not specified: Selby Jennings: SVP Model Validation This top tiered investment...

Selby Jennings: Oil Operations

Highly Competitive: Selby Jennings: Our client, a leading European Oil trading...

Day In a Page

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that? The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that?

The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year
Hollande's vanity project is on a high-speed track to the middle of nowhere

Vanity project on a high-speed track to nowhere

France’s TGV network has become mired in controversy
Sports Quiz of the Year

Sports Quiz of the Year

So, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry, his love of 'Bargain Hunt', and life as a llama farmer

Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry and his love of 'Bargain Hunt'

From Armstrong and Miller to Pointless
Sanchez helps Gunners hold on after Giroud's moment of madness

Sanchez helps Gunners hold on

Olivier Giroud's moment of madness nearly costs them
A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect