Grade attacked over £6m share options

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The Independent Online

Unions attacked Michael Grade yesterday after the ITV chairman was awarded £6m in shares amid an environment of cost-cutting and job losses at the broadcaster.

Mr Grade, who took charge at ITV in February, will be eligible to cash in on more than 5.5 million shares over the coming years if the broadcaster hits performance targets. Other executives, including the chief operating officer, John Cresswell, also received generous nil-cost share options that could be worth millions of pounds over the next four years.

The share options scheme, on top of a salary of over £1m a year, was agreed when Mr Grade joined ITV from the BBC. However, the timing of it coming to light was awkward, days after Mr Grade unveiled a growth strategy for ITV which included a plan to contract its regional news services at the cost of an as yet undefined number of jobs.

Sharon Elliot, an official with the broadcasting union Bectu, said: "Michael Grade's acceptance of this shares grant is unethical. The credibility of his rallying cry this week to staff to work harder to escalate recovery at ITV has been snuffed out in an instant with this news."

She said that although Mr Grade's arrival had increased confidence that the broadcaster was on the road to recovery, the share award could undo much of that work. "What is happening behind the scenes? The old-fashioned smash and grab of greedy senior executives who appeal to staff to accept capped pay rises at the same time as they line up extraordinary rewards for themselves. Grade's arrival was greeted in every quarter with enthusiasm, and yet he and his board appear all too ready to squander that renewed faith with this reckless move."

An ITV spokeswoman said that the awards had been approved by shareholders. She added that it was important in a turnaround situation that management was incentivised, and that the performance targets were "very stretching".