Dan-Air chairman's charity fails to impress

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DAVID JAMES, the company doctor brought in to save Dan- Air, is donating pounds 100,000 to a hardship fund set up to help unemployed staff of the defunct airline. He chaired Dan-Air until it was sold to British Airways for pounds 1 with the loss of 1,900 jobs.

But his act of magnanimity failed to impress Dan-Air shareholders and employees yesterday, as they turned out in droves to attack the deal.

Shareholder after shareholder stood up to criticise the sale and the performance of Mr James during a rowdy meeting to approve the voluntary winding up of Davies & Newman, Dan-Air's parent company.

Faced with the barrage of dissent, Mr James, chairman of Davies & Newman, disclosed that he was contributing his pounds 60,000 severance pay and pounds 40,000 of fees to a trust to support hardship cases.

But this was not enough to placate shareholders, including a former Dan-Air captain with 22 years' service who was receiving just pounds 4,000 in redundancy pay.

Shareholders had been treated with contempt, one small investor said to loud cheers, while another accused Mr James of having 'conned' staff about the prospects of saving the airline.

Some accused the banks of 'shamefully helping destroy another business' but others laid the blame squarely at the door of Mr James and fellow board members.

There were gasps when Mr James disclosed that severance payments to directors of Davies & Newman totalled pounds 742,233.

Mr James, an accountant by training, conceded that the situation for pilots was not satisfactory but said their severance payments had to be seen in terms of the 'overall aggregate cost to make the deal possible at all'.

Maintaining an urbane delivery throughout, Mr James explained that Dan-Air had fallen foul of the vicissitudes of the charter market, its own image, the banks and an ageing, expensive aircraft fleet. The deal with BA was not a pretty one but it had more merits than the 'awful alternative' of receivership.

But his critics were not persuaded. 'At the moment there are three losers - Britain, the employees and the shareholders,' pronounced Peter Frankel, one of the latter group.

Although the resolution to wind up Davies & Newman was defeated overwhelmingly on a show of hands it went through on a poll with a 97.23 per cent vote in favour after proxy votes from institutions had been counted.