She was in effect ousted by the Centre's landlord, the City of London Corporation. Some Barbican staff had accused her of instituting a ``reign of terror'', including the use of redundancies, at the London home of the Royal Shakespeare Company and London Symphony Orchestra.
The City Corporation had been impressed enough by her control of the centre's finances and increases in audience figures to extend her contract, due to end next month, by three years.
However, this week a special private meeting of the City's Barbican Committee heard that key figures including the heads of the LSO and RSC had lost confidence in Lady O'Cathain, and the committee decided to give her fully paid leave of absence ``with an indefinite timescale''. If it runs the length of her contract, as extended by the City, it could last until the end of 1997.
The 56-year-old peeress, ennobled by John Major, was not making any comment yesterday, but Barbican sources say she was deeply upset.
Bernard Harty, Chamberlain of London and financial director of the Corporation, is to become managing director until a successor is found.
The classical music promoter Raymond Gubbay was one of those whose views on Lady O'Cathain were sought by the City. He said: ``This is extremely sad but inevitable.''
Rise and fall, page 3