Loss-making hotels chief gets £1m pay-off

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The Independent Online

The former chief executive of Queens Moat Houses, the hotels chain that is on the brink of being bought by Goldman Sachs, saw his pay packet top £1m last year thanks to a hefty payoff.

Andrew Coppel, 53, who ran Queens Moat for a decade, was paid £700,000 in compensation for quitting his job last September. He had been on a two-year contract, but the company managed to limit his payout to 16 months' salary plus benefits.

Mr Coppel's total remuneration for 2003 - a year that saw Queens Moat rack up £14m in losses - was £1,004,068, which included £279,000 of salary and £30,000 of benefits. The figure was revealed in the company's annual report and accounts for 2003, published yesterday, which showed that the total wage bill for the board of directors was £1.65m.

Investors, who have been unable to trade in Queens Moat for the past year following the suspension of the group's shares, will vote on whether to approve the sale to Goldman Sachs next month. The investment bank's property arm is buying Queens Moat for slightly less than its £625m debt pile, leaving nothing for shareholders.

During his tenure as chief executive, Mr Coppel managed to reduce the group's debt from £1.4bn - but the company was eventually destroyed by its crippling £50m annual interest bill.

Queens Moat earned notoriety in 1992 for reporting what was then the second-largest loss in UK corporate history at £1bn.