SkyePharma chief on £1m package

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The Independent Online

The embattled drug developer SkyePharma yesterday disclosed that it would pay its new chief executive, the industry veteran Frank Condella, a near £1m-a-year package. That compares with the incumbent Michael Ashton's total pay package of £835,755 in 2004, which included a bonus, benefits, a pension and share options. Mr Condella will succeed Mr Ashton on 1 March.

Mr Condella will get a basic salary of £450,000 plus an annual bonus worth up to 100 per cent of salary.

The new chairman, Jerry Karabelas, previously a part-time director of the board, will be paid only £76,000, a lot less than his predecessor, the company founder Ian Gowrie-Smith, who received annual fees of £140,000 after he became non-executive chairman in June last year. Previously, as executive chairman, he pocketed £289,000. The new chief operating officer, Ken Cunningham, will be paid £250,000, plus a bonus.

The appointments were rejected by dissident shareholders who ousted Mr Gowrie-Smith last month. The group, which is led by North Atlantic Value (NAV) and owns 14.2 per cent of the shares, have pushed for Bob Thian, the chairman of filtration-paper maker Whatman and Southern Water, to be appointed as chairman. But the company said this week Mr Thian had rejected an offer of a non-executive chairmanship and said he would breach corporate governance guidelines if he had a third chairmanship.

The rebel group has called for an extraordinary shareholder meeting where it hopes to install Mr Thian as chairman, and claims to have 37 per cent backing. NAV went to see SkyePharma's biggest shareholder HBM, with a 9.3 per cent stake, in Switzerland last weekend in an attempt to win its support.

Dissident shareholders need 50 per cent support of those voting at the meeting, due to take place between 28 February and 9 March.