Outlook: Leaving bad blood with investors

NICE to see that good corporate governance lives on at Hanson PLC, the building materials group demerged a few years back from the conglomerate of the same name.

This was the bit of Hanson which father James and son Robert decided to make their home after the conglomerate split into four. Both of them left at Christmas. Lord Hanson simply retired while his son Robert resigned "voluntarily" so as to run his father's privately owned transport business in the North East.

There's nothing wrong as such with successful industrialists wanting their sons to follow in their footsteps, though as a point of principle institutional investors invariable object to the creation of business dynasties and it was always a bit of a mystery as to what the young Robert really did round there.

But what could justify a payoff of nearly pounds 500,000? After all, he was supposed to have gone "voluntarily" and he would never have been there at all but for his father. The same goes for the present Hanson chairman, Christopher Collins, who himself managed to hitch his wagon to the Hanson caravan some years back by marrying the good Lord's niece.

When asked last November about Robert's impending departure, Mr Collins said the young lad could expect some compensation since he had once been corporate development director of a pounds 10bn conglomerate but that role had been reduced by the demerger to the same job in "a focused building materials company". Poor mite. Nobody thought he meant half a mil, though. We can only assume that to justify such a sum he must have made some great awe inspiring contribution to corporate development. But then again, perhaps it was just leaving.

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