Gas pays pounds 200,000 golden hello

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British Gas has braved further controversy over boardroom pay with the pounds 265,000 appointment of Stephen Brandon, a vice-president of General Electric of the US, as its commercial director. Mr Brandon, 48, will also receive a pounds 200,000 golden hello, although half of this will be deferred until next April.

His appointment comes weeks after the annual meeting at which shareholders voiced their fury over pay and called for the directors to resign.

British Gas has been dogged by adverse publicity since the end of last year, sparked by a 71.2 per cent increase in the total pay of Cedric Brown, chief executive, to pounds 492,602.

The company said Mr Brandon's golden hello was to compensate for lapsed share options at General Electric. A payment of pounds 285,000 was granted for the same reason to Roy Gardner, who joined from GEC of the UK at the end of last year.

The appointment of Mr Brandon, who joins in August, is seen as underlining the trend to seek top-level people from outside the industry.

Richard Giordano, British Gas chairman, said: "He brings a broad array of international experience which will help us to sharpen the focus on successful development and execution of strategic projects across our business, particularly overseas."

Mr Giordano has made it clear that he sees British Gas's future opportunities in the global marketplace as competition and regulation in the UK continue to bite.

Mr Brandon, a Cambridge engineering graduate, worked for 13 years as a management consultant with McKinsey & Co before joining GE. His responsibilities with the US group are the co-ordination of operations in South-east Asia. At McKinsey, he was involved in assignments preparing for the privatisation of British Steel and British Coal.

Separately, it emerged that British Gas has been freed by the watchdog, Ofgas, from the need to publish prices in its industrial and commercial operations, allowing it to negotiate contracts with customers.

The relaxation, to take effect next week, was strongly opposed by British Gas rivals.