Astonishment at Fitzgerald's £1.2m pay-off

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Unilever paid Niall FitzGerald, its former co-chairman, €1.8m (£1.2m) to quit earlier than he had planned, the Anglo-Dutch consumer goods giant revealed yesterday.

Unilever paid Niall FitzGerald, its former co-chairman, €1.8m (£1.2m) to quit earlier than he had planned, the Anglo-Dutch consumer goods giant revealed yesterday.

Mr FitzGerald, whose 37-year tenure at Unilever was marred by a collapse in sales during his final 18 months, was the company's highest paid director last year, according to its annual report.

The former co-chairman's pay soared to €3.4m last year, from €2m the previous year. Once the shares he cashed in from his long-term incentive plan are included, his total emoluments hit €5.5m.

A spokesman for the company admitted Mr FitzGerald had received the €1.8m to compensate him for retiring early. The lump sum comprised one year's worth of compensation for his salary, benefits and possible bonus entitlements, according to the terms of his contract. Mr FitzGerald's total salary would have been higher last year, had his annual bonus not shrunk to €158,000 - the consequence of a poor year for the maker of Dove soap, Lipton tea and Hellmann's mayonnaise. The group barely lifted sales of its leading brands last year, missing the 5 to 6 per cent target it set under Mr FitzGerald's five-year restructuring plan.

One shareholder said the payout to Mr FitzGerald reflected the importance of "getting contracts right at the start". This view was echoed by the National Association of Pension Funds, whose spokesman said: "We and the Association of British Insurers have jointly published guidelines on how to get contracts right in the first place."

One analyst said the payout was "unlikely to be massively resented", pointing out the immense transformation wrought by Mr FitzGerald. But he added: "He takes the blame for not executing the strategy better because he was too attached to the financial targets."

Unilever's annual report showed that Patrick Cescau, Mr FitzGerald's replacement, saw his total pay packet rise to €1.8m from €1.4m last year. Mr Cescau, who is to become the group's first chief executive, after its annual meeting in May, was co-chairman for only the last four months of the year. He cashed in shares worth €2.1m from long-term incentive plans.

Comments