In response to repeated questioning from shareholders at yesterday's annual meeting in London, Mr Davison said that Mr Dworkin, who left in February to join Carter Hawley Hale in the US, had 'let the company down very badly' and it had considered suing him for breach of contract.
Mr Dworkin was an American and so came from a different culture. 'It was difficult for him to understand that shareholders do not expect their chief executives to leave at such short notice when they have just taken the position up,' he said.
Shareholders questioned the pounds 2.7m bonus, part of a pounds 3.3m salary, paid to Mr Dworkin just before he left and the 1.4 million share options that he was allowed to take. Mr Davison said no compensation was paid for loss of office but the bonus and options were earned during the three years he was with the group. 'We could not contractually take it away,' he added. 'We would have liked to.'
Mr Davison said sales this year were running 5 per cent ahead of 1992. The shares were unchanged at 191p.