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
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Collections Agent

£14000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company was established in...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE 40k: SThree: SThree are a global FTSE 250 busi...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + competitive: SThree: SThree are a global FTSE 250 ...

Reach Volunteering: Trustees with Finance, Fundraising and IT skills

Voluntary and unpaid, reasonable expenses reimbursable: Reach Volunteering: St...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent