Granada stands firm on extra payouts to directors

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Granada, the media and hotels group, insisted yesterday that it would stand firm against investor anger over its decision to pay pounds 374,000 in compensation to directors for shortening their service contracts.

As the row intensified, one institution suggested that the wealthiest members of the board should give the money to charity. Nigel Cope, City Correspondent reports.

Granada said yesterday that it had not received a single complaint from investors about the payments, which were revealed in the group's annual report. "We pride ourselves on our investor relations and if any fund managers would like further details we would be delighted to meet them."

However, several investors do plan to register complaints over the payments, which they regard as unnecessary and "grubby" - the sort of thing associated with "scruffy companies" rather than a blue chip name like Granada.

One senior fund manager, who asked not to be named, suggested that the senior directors such as the chairman, Gerry Robinson, should give their payments to charity. "I would have thought a suitable charity could be found to remove this stain on the company's character."

The company refused to comment on this possibility, saying it was a matter that should be discussed directly between the company and the institution.

The fund manager added: "We don't like this issue at all. It sends out all the wrong signals and we will take it up with the company to learn more. These guys are extremely well paid these days and receive all sorts of fringe benefits not available to mere mortals. And yet they are grubbing around for the last ha'penny. I would have thought Gerry Robinson would have risen above it but obviously not."

The payments were made in return for shortening the directors' notice periods in the event of takeover from three years to two. Each payment was the equivalent to two months salary. This means that Mr Robinson was paid pounds 138,334 and chief executive Charles Allen got pounds 110, 000. Three other directors were paid sums between pounds 35,000 and pounds 52,000. The payments means that Gerry Robinson received more than pounds 1m last year. His salary and bonus payments amounted to pounds 857,000 and he received a pensions payment of pounds 53,000.

Institutions only discovered the payments in the annual report, which was posted just before Christmas. As changes to directors' service contracts are not required to be voted upon at an annual meeting they have had no say in the matter.

Granada remains adamant that it has done nothing wrong. It said: "The remuneration committee felt that the value of the contracts had been eroded and felt that the management should be compensated."

Some institutions have remained sanguine over the issue. "We are not getting too exercised about it," one said. "It is a matter for the remuneration committee." Granada said it had no plans for formal meetings with investors to explain the issue but would be happy to arrange briefings if requested.