Ousted hotels chief nets £1.1m windfall

Richard North has severed his links with InterContinental Hotels, which ousted him as chief executive two weeks ago after a boardroom coup, by offloading his entire shareholding in the group.

The former finance director of Bass - InterContinental's former parent - had a £1.1m windfall when he sold his 179,961 shares at 633p each, the hotel group revealed yesterday. He is due to leave the hotel business later this week, with an estimated £1m-plus pay-off.

Mr North said he was still "shocked" by the board's decision to sack him. "The chairman [David Webster] has never said anything except I was doing a great job, which he continues to say." Insisting he had "total confidence" in InterContinental's future, Mr North said he rushed the share sale through only to avoid paying capital gains tax of 40 per cent. As a company employee until Thursday, he was eligible for "taper relief", and so paid just 10 per cent in tax.

He is not cashing in any of his 1.13 million share options, worth about £2.5m at current market valuations, because options are not eligible for any form of tax relief. "Where there is no tax advantage to sell, I haven't sold. I've got 10 years' worth of options and I haven't cashed in any," he said.

Mr North, 54, said he was "open-minded" about his future. So far, the only job the former Coopers & Lybrand accountant has been offered is with his village entertainment committee. "I love the leisure industry," he said.

Although Mr North's elevation to chief executive from finance director of Six Continents was initially met with scepticism, his strategy of selling assets and handing back cash to shareholders appeared to have won the City round. Shares in the group have soared two-thirds since its demerger from Six Continents. Yet Mr Webster insisted InterContinental needed "different leadership skills".

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