Lucky Jim nets pounds 8.7m from EMI options

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JIM FIFIELD, the EMI executive dubbed "Lucky Jim" because of his lavish pay, received another stroke of good fortune yesterday when an options package worth pounds 8.7m was triggered.

The share award could not have come at a more embarrassing time for EMI. The company is in negotiations with Mr Fifield to release him from his contract in a move that may cost the group another pounds 12m. This is on top of the total pay of pounds 7m he received last year.

One institutional investor in EMI said the company was fast becoming a laughing stock: "It has become pretty ludicrous. It seems to be complete chaos round there at the moment. All this might be OK if EMI was doing well at the moment, but it isn't."

The latest payout to Mr Fifield is the result of a "restricted share award" which was granted in April 1993 and triggered yesterday. The award was of 1.75 million shares at zero consideration. At yesterday's closing share price of 496p, down 10p on the day, those shares are worth pounds 8.7m. The company said it did not know whether Mr Fifield planned to cash them in.

The company declined to comment on the awkward timing, merely saying the options "were part of his contract".

On EMI shareholder said: "One wonders just what EMI were thinking of when they signed this contract. Presumably Sir Colin Southgate [the EMI chairman] was involved in the discussions. One continues to be amazed."

Details of the options have been included in the small print of EMI's annual reports since 1994. But they have been triggered just when Mr Fifield's role at EMI is the subject of heated debate. The head of EMI Music in the US, he had been tipped as a successor to Sir Colin. However, his promotion to group chief executive was blocked by the non-executive directors and he is now planning to leave. Negotiations over his release from his contract are still taking place.

Separately, directors in Unilever, the Wall's ice-cream and Persil detergents group, cashed in share options worth more than pounds 2m last year. Iain Anderson, Unilever's strategy and technology director was the biggest beneficiary, cashing in options worth pounds 1m. Roy Brown, head of food and beverages in Europe, exercised options worth pounds 600,000. Christopher Jemmett, a member of Unilever's executive committee who retired last year, cashed in pounds 537,000.

Niall FitzGerald, Unilever's chairman was the highest paid director. He received pounds 935,296.