Ex-chief of Ashley got pounds 600,000

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The Independent Online
TONY Butler, the former chief executive of Ashley - which owns a Spanish supermarket chain and a window blinds business - received severance pay of nearly pounds 600,000.

Mr Butler orchestrated an ambitious acquisition programme that saw Ashley grow from a shell investment company to a business turning over pounds 564.8m. However, results published yesterday showed losses of pounds 62m for the 16 months to 31 December. Pre-tax losses were pounds 14m, compared with profits in 1990 of pounds 14m.

Profits grew from pounds 116,000 in 1988 to pounds 13.6m in 1991 under Mr Butler but were little changed as a percentage of turnover.

Mr Butler's salary rose from pounds 134,000 in 1989 to pounds 194,000 in 1990. In 1991 he was paid pounds 254,000.

James White, chairman, promised yesterday that executive salaries would in future be related to performance.

He also said that Mr Butler had a three-year rolling contract that, including other benefits, was worth pounds 1.1m. Mr White said he led negotiations to reduce that figure to pounds 593,000.

The poor results were mainly due to Ashley's Spanish supermarket chain and food distribution business. Last week Ashley arranged to sell Digsa, the food arm, to a consortium that includes Sir Ralph Halpern.

Ashley is left with a window blinds business and a timber merchant. To 31 December these made trading profits of pounds 5.8m. Group debt after the Digsa deal will be cut from pounds 60m to pounds 12m.

Shares, which traded at 120p in 1991, were unchanged at 15p. No final dividend is to be paid.