Anthony ‘Cob’ Stenham, the impeccably ‘establishment’ non-executive chairman of Telewest Communications, has admitted misleading shareholders over the hot potato of boardroom pay at the ailing group’s annual meeting last week.
Or maybe 70-year-old Stenham, also chairman of Telewest’s audit and remuneration committees until December 1999 and a collector of non-executive directorships, just succumbed to a lapse of memory as claimed?
Questioned by militant shareholders, Stenham told the meeting that the basic pay of every Telewest director had been frozen in keeping with the cable operator’s frail financial health.
This assurance made in good faith to the meeting was not corrected by Telewest finance director Charles Burdick – who may have felt it inopportune to reveal that he himself was the recipient of a £40,000 increase that hiked his annual salary to £400,000.
The oversight was accidental, Stenham told the Sunday Times, citing his longevity as guarantor for his probity: “It was a mistake. I have been around for a very long time and I am not in the business of trying to mislead people.”
Elucidated a Telewest spokesperson: “Charles [Burdick’s] pay rise wasn’t included in the annual salary review. It happened at a different time from all the other pay negotiations. The reason was that we benchmarked his pay against other finance directors at similar sized companies.”
She did not explain why no-one bothered to tell the chairman – nor whether the yardstick companies were also labouring under a £5.3 billion debt and had seen their share price lose over 90% of its value over the past six months.
Data sourced from: MediaGuardian.co.uk; additional content by WARC staff