Slough pounds 1.8m `golden parachute' charge

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The Independent Online
BILTON, the property group defending a pounds 264m hostile bid from Slough Estates, has turned the tables on its rival by accusing its directors of having a pounds 1.8m "golden parachute".

Bilton said that five Slough executives were set to receive up to two years' salary and pensions contributions if Slough is taken over. A similar arrangement for some Bilton directors was sharply criticised by Slough last week.

In a letter urging Bilton investors to accept the bid, Slough said that the directors' "remuneration history and their existing service contracts represent a significant cost borne by Bilton shareholders".

A source close to Bilton said: "It is a case of a dirty and scruffy pot calling the kettle black."

According to Slough's latest report and accounts, Sir Nigel Mobbs, the chairman, will get "between 21 and 24 months of salary plus pension contributions should control of the company change".

The latest contract shows that Sir Nigel will earn pounds 375,000 in 1998, giving him a potential payout of pounds 750,000. Under the scheme the chief executive, Derek Wilson, would get around pounds 540,000.

Executive directors Hugh Thomson and David Simons would receive around pounds 254,000 and pounds 270,000 respectively.

Sources close to Slough yesterday rejected Bilton's attack and said there was little in common between the arrangements for Slough's and Bilton directors. "The service contracts were changed as a result of a cut in the lengths of the contracts from three to two years in line with best governance practice," the sources said. They added that the change had taken place in early 1996 and was disclosed in the 1995 report and accounts.

By contrast the four Bilton directors, including joint managing director Ron Groom and chairman Hugh Free, had their contracts extended, Slough said in the letter. The changes to give the directors a pounds 1m "golden parachute" took place in April, a month after the company said in its 1997 annual report that it did not intend to grant contracts longer than 12 months. The revised contracts were revealed last week as part of Bilton's defence.

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