Montgomery given own pension plan: MGN shareholders condemn falling standards and circulation at 'Daily Mirror'

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The Independent Online
MIRROR Group Newspapers has set up a separate pension scheme for David Montgomery, its pounds 225,000-a-year chief executive, an ill-tempered annual shareholders' meeting discovered yesterday. He is not a member of either of the two staff schemes set up after the late Robert Maxwell looted the original MGN fund.

At the London meeting Mr Montgomery and the chairman, Sir Robert Clark, were bombarded with accusations of falling standards at the flagship Daily Mirror, mistreatment of staff, withdrawal of the paper's traditional support for Labour, and of allowing morale and circulation to plunge.

Mr Montgomery, pressed on whether he was a member of an ordinary MGN pension scheme, said: 'I was advised in the light of the number of times I had changed my job that I should have a private and portable scheme, and that is what I have got.'

Tony Boram, chairman of the Association of Mirror Pensioners, attacked the directors' separate pension arrangements and said the 'lavish' board pay rises could have given 5 per cent pension increases for all. 'We do seem to have double standards.'

Service documents available to shareholders show Mr Montgomery is on a three-year contract plus car and discretionary bonus. In addition MGN is paying pounds 56,000 a year into his pension scheme. He also has options on 1.475 million shares.

After the meeting Mr Boram said: 'It does seem a little early in the day for Mr Montgomery to be having a high salary, three-year contract, share options and - as we discovered today - a generous private pension - before he has proved he can do anything except sack staff.'

Later Charles Wilson, managing director, defended the private pension scheme: 'Robert Maxwell was a member of the pension fund and that hasn't done the pensioners very much good. Whether David Montgomery is or is not a member is irrelevant to the commitment the company has to the fund.'

At the meeting Sir Robert said there had been an improvement in the pension situation. It might take less than the 14 years envisaged to refill the black hole caused by Mr Maxwell's theft. Action to recover misappropriated assets was being vigorously pursued.

Roy Greenslade, a former Daily Mirror editor, was one of several shareholders at the meeting to attack the editorial stance. 'Last week was the biggest Tory defeat in local elections in one hundred years. What did the Mirror splash on? Bananarama star in a mental hospital.'

Mr Montgomery hit back: 'His statement shows more about his bitterness than anything about this company.' The Bananarama story was 'a holding splash' for the early edition intended to make way when the election results came in. 'But there was a mix-up.'

Mr Montgomery said: 'We are 100 per cent supportive of the tradition of backing the Labour Party.' But he was replacing the 'strident coverage' of the past with a more balanced approach. He denied journalists were sacked: 'They chose to leave.'

(Photograph omitted)