Trafalgar House clears decks

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The Independent Online
Three executive directors of Trafalgar House, the QE2 to construction group, are set to pick up a total of pounds 862,000 following their removal from the board yesterday.

The move comes as part of a wholesale clear-out by Kvaerner of Norway following news that its pounds 904m bid had gone unconditional. One survivor is Peter Ward, chairman and chief executive of the troubled Cunard shipping line, who keeps his job

Nigel Rich, the chief executive who was appointed by former majority shareholder Hongkong Land in August 1994, is expected to pick up a severance cheque of pounds 350,000. David Gawler, finance director, is in line for pounds 215,000 and James Watkins, legal director, could take away pounds 297,000. All three are on a one-year fixed contract and are expected to receive their full contractual entitlements.

There will be no options payments as the bid price of 50p a share is well below the level at which option shares due to senior management are priced.

Mr Ward, who was paid a basic salary of pounds 88,000 last year, is being kept on despite continuing embarrassments over the flagship QE2 luxury cruise liner.

Earlier this month, Cunard confirmed that it had received a pounds 15m compensation claim from Egypt after the ship ran aground on a reef in the Red Sea.

The incident followed a disastrous voyage in 1994, when the QE2 set sail before a refit had been properly completed and Cunard had to pay compensation to passengers totalling pounds 8.4m.

Other to stay at Trafalgar are John Fletcher, director in charge of business development, and Alan Winter, commercial property director.

Kvaerner has appointed Erik Tonseth, its president and chief executive, as new chairman and chief executive of Trafalgar. At the same time, Jan Magne Heggelund, the Norwegian group's senior vice-president and chief financial officer, and Jan Greve, another Kvaerner director, have also been appointed to the Trafalgar board.

As expected, all the non-executive directors are leaving. These are the chairman, Simon Keswick, scion of the family which controls Hongkong Land; Charles Powell, non-executive deputy chairman; Dick Evans; Archibald Forster; Rodney Leach and Cob Stenham.

The clear-out marks the final end of a sorry chapter for the Keswick family.