pounds 66m for SB boss in biggest UK pay deal

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JAN LESCHLY, chief executive of SmithKline Beecham, has become the highest-paid director ever seen in a British boardroom. The former tennis star has been awarded share options and incentive schemes currently worth pounds 66m. The share package comes on top of the pounds 2.4m he earned last year, which included a bonus of more than pounds 1.5m.

Mr Leschly is now one of the best-paid executives in the world. However, the City is beginning to question whether he is worth such a huge pay package. SmithKline could face demands to curb Mr Leschly's lavish awards. Institutional investors are becoming increasingly concerned about the value of shares and options awarded to Mr Leschly. They are particularly worried that he has accumulated a vast fortune despite coming under heavy criticism for failing to secure a merger first with American Home Products and then Glaxo Wellcome in the space of a month. The breakdown in merger talks wiped billions of pounds off the value of the drugs giant and caused widespread consternation in the City. Leschly's fortune dwarfs that of Sir Richard Sykes, his opposite number at Glaxo Wellcome .

Mr Leschly, 57, is one of the most successful businessman to have come out of Denmark. But he came to the world of business relatively late in life.

Mr Leschly first showed his winning ways on the tennis court where he was ranked in the world's top ten, played in the Danish Davis Cup team and reached a Wimbledon quarter final. He has demonstrated the same drive for success and ruthlessness in the boardroom has he did on the tennis courts.

Mr Leschly now lives mainly in America, based at SmithKline's Philadelphia headquarters. He left Denmark in 1979 to join Squibb Corporation, the US pharmaceutical group, where he showed his competitive streak by quickly climbing the corporate ladder. But after losing out in a fierce battle to win control of the group he left in 1990 to join SmithKline, becoming chief executive four years later. Born into a military family, he has always lead from the front, maintaining an iron grip on the group. His ego and determination to keep control of SmithKline are believed to have contributed to the breakdown in merger talks.

SmithKline's non-executive directors have come under pressure from some shareholders to resurrect a merger with Glaxo Wellcome by removing Mr Leschly. However, if SmithKline is taken over he would be entitled to cash in his share options, prompting the biggest corporate pay-off ever seen.

SmithKline has one of the most generous share option and incentive schemes in the world. Jean-Pierre Garnier, chief operating officer, is sitting on a paper profit from options worth pounds 20m and Hugh Collum, the group's finance director stands to make pounds 12m.