Laura Ashley boss earns pounds 1m

Ann Iverson, the chief executive of fashion and home furnishings group Laura Ashley, picked up a pounds 525,000 bonus last year which took her total pay to more than pounds 1m.

Details of the remuneration come just a month after the company issued a profits warning which drove the share price down by over a quarter.

Ms Iverson's total pay increased by a fifth to pounds 1,071,000 last year. This includes a personal insurance plan of pounds 50,000 and a housing allowance of pounds 82,000. Her basis salary was pounds 409,000. She also holds in excess of 5.5 million share options but paper gains on these have been wiped out by the share price collapse. The shares closed 0.5p down yesterday at 105.5p. Her option price is 109p.

Jim Walsh, finance director, received a bonus of pounds 350,000 last year taking his total pay to pounds 648,000. He received total pay of pounds 360,000 in the previous year.

American-born Ms Iverson, 53, joined the board in July 1994 and was appointed chief executive a year later. She had a strong reputation, having turned around Mothercare for British Home Stores.

Her tough-talking approach, sprinkled with US business school management speak, encouraged the City, where analysts were impressed by her strategy to cut costs and develop the Laura Ashley brand.

The shares, which had been languishing at 80p, rose sharply on Ms Iverson's appointment, reaching 210p in May last year, only to fall back to 180p by the beginning of the autumn.

In the profits warning last month Laura Ashley said it was having to sell its spring and summer collections at discounts that would cost a total of pounds 4m. The company said its buying had been too aggressive. Analysts cut their forecasts for the current year from well over pounds 20m to around pounds 17m.

At the time of the warning Ms Iverson claimed to have the problems under control: "My confidence, my understanding of the issues and the fact that the recovery plan is still intact are valid reasons for continuing optimism," she said.

Before she joined Laura Ashley, Ms Iverson was president and chief executive officer of Kay-Bee Toy Stores, a subsidiary of the Melville Corporation of America.

Ms Iverson has always warned that turning Laura Ashley around would take three to four years. The company has been struggling with too many stores that are too small to display its full range of fashion and home furnishings.

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