Little man with the beard and a £28m pay packet

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The Independent Online

Many former millionaires may be nursing their share certificates and bemoaning lost (and unrealised) riches, but Dr Martin Read, chief executive of the computer services and software company Logica since 1993, has cashed in big-time– becoming Britain's highest-paid executive in the process.

Known to all in his company as "the little man with the beard", Dr Read, 51, was on holiday at home with his family on Wednesday, out of the spotlight as the details of his £28m remuneration were revealed.

He was probably indulging two of his interests – gardening, and reading French and German novels – though he is better known for his passion for drama; as an amateur actor at Cambridge University he became accustomed to being cast as the villain, such as Iago in Othello. The vaunting ambition that emerged from that experience of being the focus of attention and the scientific precision that won him a doctorate in crystalline physics have propelled him to the top of the executive tree.

The huge payout was also his reward to himself for having turned Logica around from a technology also-ran into one of the 100 biggest in Britain. Its technology is responsible for handling the majority of text messages sent between mobile phones, and half of all international currency exchanges.

His basic salary was relatively modest at £350,000 with a performance-related bonus of £336,000; with other benefits, that totalled a £702,000 annual package.

But it was the extras that made the grand total: an £8.7m long-term bonus for the year to June 2000, and the exercising of 768,590 share options granted when he joined. He could buy them for £1.73 each, and sell them at the market price. He did so at the height of dot-com mania for £25, giving him an instant profit of £17.7m. on Wednesday the price was £7.18.

No journalist who meets Dr Read seems able to escape without being quoted the lines before battle from Henry V – "We few, we happy few, we band of brothers". He insists that it is an "absolutely inspirational" speech, and that every manager should read it. "It makes you think how you motivate people," he said recently. "Any chief executive that's any good has to be good at acting. That's what we do."

Certainly, he has put Logica on to the world stage – though when he left school he briefly harboured dreams of being an academic. However, after just eight copies of his doctorate were printed (and did not sell out) he looked elsewhere, and wound up at GEC Marconi, working for the legendary businessman Sir Arnold Weinstock. He described Dr Read in 1999 as "a bright young man, self-confident without being cocky" and "a hardworking, decent boy – he was always one of our great hopes."

Away from the office, Dr Read spends his time with his wife (whom he met at Oxford University) and two children; he also lists military history and travel among his interests. But his intense nature means he avoids the City's old-school clubs – under "Clubs" his entry in Who's Who lists "Swanmore Lawn Tennis". He also finds time to serve on the boards of Asda, Boots and British Airways.

Among the motivational techniques he introduced to Logica when he took over were "capitalisation parties" – which celebrated important high points in the company's share price. When the company's market capitalisation hit £1bn, the party was huge – and propelled the staff forward in the expectation that they too could benefit from share options.

Nobody at Logica was prepared to say on Wednesday how Dr Read might spend his earnings. Short of endowing a theatre, there seems no appropriate way; unless it was a school for text messaging.

What is Logica?

Founded: 1969 by Philip Hughes, Len Taylor and Pat Cohen. Hughes appointed Read but left soon afterwards and is now chairman of the National Gallery

Staff: 12,000 staff in 30 countries (3,500 in the UK). (In 1993 when Martin Read joined it had a staff of 7,000.)

Market capitalisation: £3.3bn (£130m in 1993 when Martin Read joined)

Does: Software for text messaging, billing, radio planning, telephone networks, the programs that will land the Beagle 2 probe on Mars; software handling $3,000bn of foreign exchange transactions; more than half of all text messages sent in the world via Logica software; world leader in providing trading systems

Notes: Has created a number of millionaires through its share-option schemes, both at board level and among staff