Hudson bags bonus from Herald sale to earn £1m at SMG

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The Independent Online

Des Hudson, the former publishing director of the media group SMG, was paid more than £1m last year, including a £550,000 bonus for selling the company's newspapers.

Des Hudson, the former publishing director of the media group SMG, was paid more than £1m last year, including a £550,000 bonus for selling the company's newspapers.

Mr Hudson was rewarded for the divestment of SMG's papers and magazines division, which included The Herald, a "Scottish national" title, for £216m last year.

He was paid just over £1m for 2003, despite working only until the end of June. For the previous year, he collected a total of £224,000. Last year's remuneration included a £288,000 redundancy pay-off, plus the £550,000 "transaction bonus", as well as £98,000 in salary and £66,000 in regular bonus, according to SMG's annual report.

That compared with the £562,000 that SMG's chief executive Andrew Flanagan collected for the year - up from £476,000 in 2002.

A spokesman for SMG said that although Mr Flanagan led negotiations with the various bidders for the publishing business, Mr Hudson was incentivised to help achieve the highest possible price. Mr Hudson led the management presentations to the bidders and was "heavily involved" in aiding the due diligence process.

The SMG spokesman said: "He [Mr Hudson] was instrumental in helping to achieve such a good price."

Gannett, the US media group, eventually bought the division after a fiercely contested auction. The deal meant, in effect, the end of Mr Hudson's job. SMG's remaining business has a radio arm, two ITV licences, cinema advertising and a billboard advertising division.

Yesterday's edition of The Herald picked over the news of Mr Hudson's pay, and that of other SMG directors, in what appeared an unusually long story.

SMG's high debt position forced it to sell assets but it was credited with getting an attractive price for the publishing division. It has said its balance sheet is no longer stretched.

All SMG executive directors enjoyed pay rises last year. The spokesman pointed out that although the rises looked significant, it was the first time in four years that the directors had seen a pay increase. "If you take all four years into account, it is in line with inflation," he said.

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