Ladbroke chief's pay cut is just a matter of timing

THE CHIEF executive of Ladbroke received a pay cut of more than 40 per cent last year despite presiding over a sharp rise in the stock market valuation and profits at the betting to hotels group.

Peter George received a total of pounds 745,000 in 1997 compared with almost pounds 1.3m for the previous 12 months. The total remuneration of Ladbroke's four executive directors fell by more than a third to less than pounds 2.8m.

The fall in pay was due to the timing of payments from a long-term executive incentive scheme rather than a bold move by the company to act on the Government's desire to curb wage inflation. In fact Mr George's underlying pay has risen sharply.

He received a bonus of pounds 270,000 in 1997 compared with pounds 98,000 in the previous year and, ignoring the incentive scheme, his pay packet leapt by 40 per cent.

Mr George was also granted share options currently worth pounds 185,000. Since the year end he has exercised 194,000 shares, making a profit of more than pounds 250,000.

Ladbroke's directors are also likely to receive a substantial hike in pay this year as its incentive scheme is due to pay out in 1998. It is likely to swell directors' pay packets with at least at extra pounds 1m.

Ladbroke's profits rose to pounds 226m (pounds 163m) in 1997 thanks to a strong performance from its Hilton Hotel business and its betting shops. The group is currently awaiting the results of an MMC enquiry into its acquisition of the Coral betting chain.

Analysts believe it could be forced to sell hundreds of betting shops to get the green light for the controversial deal.

Meanwhile CK Chow, the chief executive of GKN, the Challenger tank to Westland Helicopter group, received a total of pounds 793,000 last year, a rise of pounds 144,000 from 1996.

Sir David Lees, the group's chairman, who stood down from his role as chief executive at the start of last year, saw his pay shrink from pounds 484,000 to pounds 221,000.

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