Exchange clamps down on leaks

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The Stock Exchange has revised its rules on company directors in the wake of last week's selected leak to the Financial Times about a reduced role for United News & Media's chairman, Lord Stevens.

According to the new regulation, entered under clause 16.7 of the official Listing Rules, companies "must notify the Company Announcements Office without delay (by the end of the business day following the decision) when ... any important functions or executive responsibilities of a director are changed".

Had it been in effect, the rule change, revealed in the Independent last week, would have obliged United News & Media to issue a statement about Lord Stevens' move to a part-time role starting next spring, which will see cuts in both his salary and his expenses. The Stock Exchange said yesterday that the rule was officially in place, and would be carefully enforced.

Lord Stevens has taken a less active role in the management of United News & Media since the merger of the company with Lord Hollick's MAI earlier this year. But his salary, which stood at pounds 510,000 a year at the time of the merger, has yet to be cut. A decision about his new remuneration will be made by a board committee in due course, the company has said.

Lord Hollick, chief executive of the combined companies, is widely viewed as the prime architect of United's strategy, which saw the pounds 592m acquisition of Blenheim, the exhibitions company, and the purchase of a stake in ITV company HTV.

United is expected to clinch the purchase of Westcountry Television this week, for a sum believed to be between pounds 75m and pounds 80m. The acquisition will be seen as a step towards creating a southern England and Wales ITV giant, taking in Westcountry, HTV and United's own ITV licences, Anglia and Meridian.

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