That distinction now belongs to Cameron Mackintosh, who in 1991 was paid pounds 8,331,557 by his eponymous theatre production company. That, says the forthcoming issue of Management Today, puts the stager of Phantom of the Opera, Les Miserables, Cats and Miss Saigon pounds 250,000 ahead of the salary once paid to Mr Brown.
Not only do the 1991 accounts of Cameron Mackintosh Limited reveal its owner overtaking Mr Brown, but they also disclose what must rank as the country's biggest ever pay rise: pounds 3.3m, or 65 per cent.
Mr Mackintosh's monthly salary cheque of pounds 694,000, says Philip Beresford, Management Today's editor, 'proves all the fuss about high pay for former nationalised industry chairmen is a bit of red herring. The really serious money is to be found in private companies, where huge salaries and dividends can be awarded without a murmur from the City and Westminster.'
Even Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber, Mr Mackintosh's favoured composer and frequent collaborator, can only stand and stare. Really Useful Holdings paid him a mere pounds 734,000.
Mr Mackintosh first caught the theatre bug when he was eight years old. Turned down to read drama at university because his A-levels were not good enough, he went to the Central School of Speech and Drama in London, but did not finish the course.
Years of stage management and touring with his own productions of Agatha Christie thrillers and musical revivals followed. He recalls: 'I used to get up very early on tour to draw my dole before the actors, because it would upset them to meet their producer in a dole queue.'
His first serious hit came with Side by Side by Sondheim in 1976. Then came his link-up with Lloyd Webber to produce Cats in 1981. That was followed by Les Miserables with the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1985 and Phantom of the Opera, again with Lloyd Webber, a year later.
Today, his company, in which he owns 198 of the 200 shares, has hits running simultaneously in capitals and repertory theatres round the world. Not content with filling houses he now wants to own them as well. Last year he formed a partnership with Lord Delfont to buy three West End theatres.
If Mr Mackintosh has achieved the biggest salary boost, Jack Dellal must have suffered the largest ever pay cut.
Mr Dellal, whose penchant for the green baize has earned him the sobriquet, 'Black Jack', saw the salary paid to him by his Allied Commercial Holdings group plunge 4,036 per cent, from pounds 6.2m to a mere pounds 150,000 in 1991. Not that he should feel the pinch. In 1972, he received pounds 58m for his Dalton Barton banking group from Keyser Ullman, the City merchant bank. Dealing in property and shares since then has taken his estimated wealth to pounds 300m. In 1987, he acquired Bush House, the former BBC building, for pounds 55m and, two years later, sold it for pounds 130m.
But while Mr Mackintosh takes home the fattest pay cheque, he is only fifth in the annual total earnings league. Heading that list is David Sainsbury, the chairman-designate of the family supermarket firm. Last year his dividend income rose by pounds 5.5m to pounds 30m.
Of the 44 company directors in Britain who earned more than pounds 1m last year, only five - Sir Alistair Grant (Argyll), Sir Ian MacLaurin (Tesco), Sir Paul Girolami (Glaxo), Bob Bauman and Henry Wendt (both SmithKline Beecham) and Richard Giordano (BOC) - are genuine employees, without large personal share stakes.
Twelve of the 44, including six of the top 12, run or own private companies. Foremost among them is Maurice Hatter, chairman and 100 per cent owner of IMO Precision Control, a fast-growing distributor of electronic components. In IMO's latest accounts, Mr Hatter was paid pounds 207,000 but received dividends of pounds 14m, making him the second-highest paid executive in Britain behind Mr Sainsbury.
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