22/11/2012

Entwistle Pay-Off 'In Best Interests Of Licence Fee Payer'

Former BBC Director General George Entwistle’s £450,000 pay-off was in the best interest of the licence fee payers, according to Anthony Fry.

The investment banker and BBC Trust member responsible for remuneration, has admitted he put aside his "substantial irritation and aggravation" at the payoff to do what he judged to be in the best interests of licence fee payers.

Speaking on Thursday about the trust's decision earlier this month to give Entwistle a full year's pay when he resigned as director general, rather than the six months worth, or £225,000, to which he was contractually entitled, Fry said it was "in the best interests of the BBC and licence fee payers to reach a quick agreement".

He said the BBC also received legal advice that if it only paid Entwistle £225,000, he could go to an employment tribunal for unfair or wrongful dismissal and it was estimated he could be awarded an extra £80,000 on top of the £450,000, plus costs.

"I had to put aside my substantial irritation and aggravation," Fry admitted, giving evidence to MPs on the Commons public accounts select committee on Thursday morning.

"I freely admit it was a judgment call I'm not happy about," Fry told MPs. "Any numbers [for Entwistle's payoff] we talk about today are frankly in the stratosphere ... I still believe that it was in the best interests of licence fee payers."

Fry, who along with Patten and BBC Trust vice chair Diane Coyle sits on the trust's remuneration and appointments committee, told MPs that Entwistle's severance deal included £45,000 of legal and PR expenses on top of his £450,000 pay off. It included up to £10,000 of legal advice relating to the terms of his resignation as director general.

Entwistle, who resigned after 54 days in the job, will also be entitled to "reasonable legal fees" in relation to the on-going inquiries at the BBC relating to the Jimmy Savile scandal being overseen by Nick Pollard and Dame Janet Smith. They are not expected to top £25,000, Fry told MPs.

On top of this Entwistle will also be able to claim up to £10,000 for what Fry called "professional communication and support".

Asked by committee member Richard Bacon MP if this amounted to "paying his PR guy", Fry said it was related to the "considerable amount of doorstepping" Entwistle had encountered.

The former DG will also continue to receive Bupa private health cover from the BBC for the next 12 months. This is a benefit available to the BBC's 574 most senior executives, the BBC's chief financial officer Zarin Patel told the committee, at an annual cost of about £2m.

However, Patel added that since the financial year ending 31 March 2012, newly appointed BBC senior executives were no longer offered this private healthcare benefit.

(H)

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