Estate agent at Savills hits the £1m jackpot

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An estate agent working for the upmarket Savills business was paid a bonus of more than £800,000, pushing his earnings to well over £1m.

Simon Hope made the money out of a £54m bonus pool for 2003 that was shared out across the agency in a bonanza year. He was not even the highest paid member of staff at Savills, with one agent walking away with more than £1.2m last year. However the name of that individual was not disclosed as he does not sit on Savills' board - unlike Mr Hope, 39, whose earnings were detailed in the company's annual report published yesterday.

The news about the bumper pay packages emerged a day after estate agents were named as being in Britain's most "overpaid" profession, in a survey carried out by the magazine Management Today. They were ahead of private doctors, commercial barristers and fund managers.

Robert McKellar, Savills' finance director, said: "2003 was an exceptionally good year. This year, so far has been pretty good too."

Mr Hope was given £817,000 bonus cash, plus £82,750 in shares and £9,029 in other benefits, on top on a basic salary of £85,000. That made £993,779 in total for Mr Hope, who works for the company's commercial property practice. In addition, Savills put £120,000 into his pension fund.

Mr McKellar said: "He [Mr Hope] is a very happy chappy. He's always been a very high fee-earner for the company. His remuneration is primarily for the deals he does."

Although Mr Hope sits on the Savills board, his role is primarily that of an agent, rather than someone who runs the company at a group level.

Jeremy Helsby, another deal-maker on the board, who works in the commercial practice, made £786,439, including a £472,500 pension contribution. Such payments avoid the tax that would be levied on salary or bonuses. By comparison, Aubrey Adams, the group chief executive, earned £569,939, with £200,000 paid into his pension fund.

The agency has a large residential practice specialising in country homes and the premium end of the London market. Those working in this division also had a good year, but their earnings - at up to £500,000 - were dwarfed by the money made by those on the commercial side of the business.

Savills shares have soared, rising from below 200p last May to 446.5p yesterday, boosted by two trading statements that upgraded profit expectations.