People & Business

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THE former chairman of BNB Resources is sueing the headhunting company for pounds 2.1 million over his departure earlier this year following a boardroom row.

Co-founder David Norman resigned from the company in February after a disagreement over the future of Norman Broadbent International, the high profile headhunting business of which Mr Norman was executive chairman.

Since then he has been negotiating a compensation package with the company, but this week the talks broke down and he issued a writ demanding compensation. The company says it will contest the action.

Mr Norman was on a two-year rolling contract at BNB. In 1996 he was paid pounds 627,000, in a year when the company made pre-tax profits of just pounds 6.36 million.

Then last year Miles Broadbent, another co-founder of the business, left with several other senior staff to set up a rival firm. Under pressure from shareholders, Mr Norman scaled his role back from chairman and chief executive, and spent the last two and a half months of the year as non- executive chairman. His pay fell to pounds 397,000 in 1997.

Then in February Mr Norman resigned, according to the company, "as a result of differences regarding strategy and management". He is not exactly destitute at the moment, however. On 17 April he exercised a range of options and sold 1, 159,591 shares in BNB, when the share price was hovering around the pounds 2 mark.

The company, which also owns a raft of IT, advertising and middle management selection agencies, has instructed City law firm Slaughter & May to defend it.

The company said yesterday: "The board regrets that Mr Norman has felt unable to accept proposals made by the board which, it has been advised, would fairly compensate Mr Norman in accordance with the Company's contractual obligations to him. Accordingly it is the Board's intention to defend this writ."

MARGARET BECKETT, President of the Board of Trade, has obtained a disqualification order for the maximum 15- year period allowed against Stephen James Musker.

Mr Musker acted as a director of Stratton Europe, a company involved in the development of oil drill tagging technology in Billingham, Cleveland.

An inquiry into Stratton in 1994 under the Companies Act, which was then confirmed by a court hearing, revealed Mr Musker's misconduct. This included, according to the DTI yesterday, "the production of a forged board minute, the issue of shares to himself and associates for no valid consideration, false representations to investors to induce them to invest, and the drawing of substantial personal benefits for himself and associates when the company was clearly unprofitable."

The court also considered "Mr Musker's record of involvement in a number of other corporate failures in recent years," the DTI said.

DAVID GRAY has been appointed finance director to Golf Club Holdings, a company which owns the Lambourne, the South Winchester and the Vale Golf Club, amongst others.

Which raises the obvious question: Do you have to be good at golf to get the job? "Not at all," replies Mr Gray, modestly. When asked whether he has a handicap, he says: "Only my lack of talent."

In fact, Mr Gray sees this lack of success on the fairway as a positive advantage, in that he will approach his job with a clear view, untainted by any enthusiast's passions.

He recalls his 15 years at Thorn EMI in order to back up his argument: "Its like anything else. You wouldn't expect Jim Fifield to be a devastating rock'n'roll performer."

Mr Fifield, of course, recently hit the headlines by receiving a pounds 12m payoff from EMI when he left the music company.

Mr Gray gained valuable experience working as finance director for David Lloyd Leisure during the period when the former tennis star's company was floating.

But he is still proud of his comparative lack of sporting prowess. He says the "golf business is littered with the corpses" of businesses set up by golf nuts who fancied indulging their obsession.

IF YOU get fish fingers the next time you are invited to lunch at accountants Ernst & Young, here's why: Terry Carter of E&Y's corporate recovery team has just been appointed to restructure a Bulgarian fishing company, Okeanski Ribolov.

Terry was appointed by the Bourgas District Court following a request by shareholders. The business owns and controls port facilities in Bourgas, including a 400-metre wharf and a hotel. It also runs five fish freezer ships, three of which are currently out fishing in the Atlantic.

Mr Carter will compile a report for Bulgaria's Ministry of Industry, and will then attempt to sell the business as a going concern. So if you know of a market for Bulgarian fish fingers, give him a bell.