Ousted bosses set to collect pounds 1m pay-off

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The Independent Online
Boardroom pay-offs totalling more than pounds 1m were in prospect yesterday as Ibstock, Britain's biggest brick maker, and Ricardo, the automotive design engineers, both parted company with their chief executives.

Ibstock is expected to pay out just over pounds 500,000 following the announcement that Ian Maclellan, the managing director, is to resign after losing the confidence of the board. The news comes after a period of upheaval at Ibstock, whose pounds 160m acquisition of Redland's brick business earlier this year propelled it to the number one position in the market.

In a separate move, Christopher Ross is suing Ricardo for pounds 720,000 after being dismissed as chief executive "with immediate effect". He has been replaced by Rodney Westhead, the finance director. No reasons were given for the dismissal of Mr Ross, who has been in the job four years.

Sources close to the company suggested that the chairman, Sir Philip Foreman, had lost confidence in Mr Ross after becoming concerned that he had paid too little attention to shareholder value.

However, a spokesman for Mr Ross said that Ricardo's two biggest shareholders, M&G and the Prudential, had backed Mr Ross and had been pressing for Sir Philip to retire instead and be replaced by a younger chairman. Sir Philip is 73 and spends a large part of his time in Ireland.

Mr Ross's total package was worth pounds 350,000 and two years ago he agreed to move from a three-year to a two-year contract entitling him to liquidated damages without litigation if he was dismissed. "He feels saddened at the way he has been turfed out at very little notice after trebling profits in four years," said a spokesman.

A spokesman for Ricardo said negotiations over the payoff were continuing. Mr Ross is being advised by the firm of solicitors Fox Williams

Mr Maclellan, who took over the top job five years ago after being finance director for 10 years, is being replaced by Philip Mengel, the chief executive of Ibstock's Glen-Gery US subsidiary since 1990.

Commenting on the changeover, a company spokesman said: "It was felt by the board that Ian is extremely good at dealing with the finances and the financial structure, but is not the man to take the group forward at an operational level. Philip Mengel, having run the US operation, is seen as the man who could pull the team together and take the group forward."

Mr Maclellan, who will leave at the end of the year, is on a three-year contract at a current salary of pounds 182,000 a year. He said yesterday that, as a result of the Redland acquisition, Ibstock now had a UK operation with great profit potential for the long term. "I am proud of these achievements on behalf of the company and am pleased now to hand over, as chief executive, to my colleague Philip Mengel who, I am confident, is the right man to lead the company in the next phase of its development."

Sir Colin Hope, chairman, said integrating the Redland business and Tarmac's brick assets acquired in 1995 would be the first task facing Mr Mengel. He said they were making "satisfactory progress" with the integration of Redland.

Despite the sudden departure of Mr Ross, Ricardo said current trading remained in line with its latest assessment.

An industry source said that the company had been suffering from a weakening of confidence among senior executives and replacing Ross was seen as a helpful move to restore this. Ricardo also said John Baker, managing director of Ricardo Consulting Engineers, would join the board.

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