Vodafone threat to leave Britain over 'fat cat' row

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The Independent Online

Vodafone has warned that it could leave Britain if the constant press criticism of the company continues. The mobile phone giant has also said that its chief executive, Sir Christopher Gent, could quit and move to the US in the face of continued controversy over his high pay and bonuses.

Vodafone has warned that it could leave Britain if the constant press criticism of the company continues. The mobile phone giant has also said that its chief executive, Sir Christopher Gent, could quit and move to the US in the face of continued controversy over his high pay and bonuses.

"Vodafone doesn't have to be based here," said its chairman, Lord MacLaurin. "It could be based anywhere in the world and not have this hassle. But we don't want to do that; we're proud to be here and proud to be British. We don't want to run away and I would resist it to the nth degree. But there's no reason why we couldn't go elsewhere if we wanted to."

But controversy over Sir Christopher's multi-million pound pay package could force him abroad, he added.

"If this sort of thing goes on he might think, 'well, I've had enough of it. I'm going to work in America'. He could go and work in America tomorrow and earn 10 times what he's earning here. But I don't think he's that way inclined because he's Vodafone through and through."

Sir Christopher's remuneration deal could see him awarded bonuses and shares worth up to £3.9m this year on top of his £1.2m basic salary. This followed a year in which the company reported a pre-tax loss of £13.5bn – the biggest in UK corporate history – and saw its share price plunge.

If Vodafone did decide to quit Britain it would be a huge blow to the UK economy as the mobile phone group has been one of the country's biggest business success stories in recent years. It has capitalised on the boom in mobile phones to become the largest mobile telecoms company in Europe.

Vodafone employs 10,500 staff in the UK. The company is in the process of moving to a new headquarters in Newbury, Berkshire, where it has 3,500 workers. In stock market terms, Vodafone is the fourth largest company by market capitalisation, with a value of £61bn.

Sir Christopher, 54, became managing director of Vodafone in 1985 and chief executive in 1997. With his pinstriped suits and red braces he cuts a distinctive figure on the British business scene.

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