BP secured safe passage for its generous executive incentive scheme at yesterday's annual meeting at the Royal Festival Hall.

Overwhelming approval came despite Pirc, the shareholder activist, saying that a potential bonus for Lord Browne worth more than seven times his salary could be excessive.

One shareholder asked BP's chief executive how he could face fellow peers in the House of Lords, knowing his salary was two and a half times greater than the dozen law lords combined. But his "obscene" pay package was nothing compared with a "disgraceful" $38m (£20m) paid to Lee Raymond of ExxonMobil. "I'm old enough to remember the war," said the shareholder, "and the phrase overpaid, oversexed and over here comes to mind".

Non-executive director Antony Burgmans, chairman-in-waiting at Unilever, was berated for poor attendance at company meetings. Burgmans was paid £53,000 by BP last year but attended just three out of seven board meetings.

Chairman Peter Sutherland said BP had been "anxious" to appoint the sought-after Burgmans, who made clear his timetable at Unilever was fixed last year. The busy Burgmans also sits on ABN Amro's board.

Shareholders were unhappy that voting on items such as the re-election of directors took place before they could grill them on the annual report. Private shareholder Martin Simons said: "Even Shell, which has been in a little bit of trouble lately, does this the right way round. It's appalling that you've got the order of business wrong."

Private shareholders in attendance, most of whom could best be described as advanced in years, were given goodie bags, including a natty BP baseball cap. BP really knows its audience.

The back of Black

If anyone has an office to spare, call Conrad Black. To add to other indignities, the former press baron is being kicked out of the stately building in Toronto that his companies have occupied for almost 30 years. Hollinger Inc, once a linchpin in Black's empire, has told his private holding company, The Ravelston Corporation, to move out of 10 Toronto Street, currently home to both, by the end of May.

S for Scrooge?

It's only April but HSBC's corporate, investment banking and markets division has already cancelled Christmas. "After careful consideration, we have decided we will not hold a CIBM UK Christmas party in 2005," Pierre Goad, the division's global head of corporate communications informed its 3,000 London staff in an e-mail. "The 2004 parties were all extremely successful and all three nights were well-attended," he added. "However, we believe it is appropriate to organise such a large-scale CIBM-wide Christmas party every other year."

The 2004 parties were sit-down affairs at old Billingsgate market in the City. Goad tells Mudlark the bank gave early notice because staff were asking about this year's plans. Now there's one thing they don't have to look forward to.

Fish and foul

HSBC investment banking staff can be thankful at least that they don't work at Commerzbank. Christmas bonuses have been withheld for four years running and a cost-cutting programme will involve 900 job losses.

This week, things hit a new low: some 35 staff who had eaten fish in the head office canteen in Frankfurt were taken to hospital with food poisoning.

Without a shred

Unintentionally offering more spicy fare is Royal Bank of Scotland. The Daily Record has revealed that Jennifer Spence, who stars in "One day, I would love to be sensible" adverts for RBS's One Account, is also a lap dancer and nude model. She told the paper: "The Scottish Nymphos website was just a bit of fun."

Fly like the wind

The cancellation of Royal Ascot in the City, an effort to replicate a jolly racecourse atmosphere at the Honourable Artillery Company while the June meeting is in exile in York, poses a problem for committed punters and socialisers. Many hotels in York have filled up or are demanding a three-day minimum booking.

Spotting a golden opportunity, London Executive Aviation is stressing how convenient and reasonable in price - considering the target market of free-spending corporate hosts - are its charter flights from London to Rufforth and Church Fenton airfields near York.

A day return in a King Air turboprop with a full complement would cost £192 for each of the eight passengers. Cutting five minutes off the flight time by hiring Citation II or Citation Excel jets would raise the charge per person from Stansted to £386 and £466, respectively. Patrick Margetson-Rushmore, LEA chief executive, is musing hopefully about branding the service Ascot Express.

Big end gone

Has hope been abandoned at MG Rover? Its website reveals: "MG Rover signs deal to meet end of life vehicle regulations."

Golden Globe

Administrators to Wessex Taverns (Mudlark, April 5) said discussions with a potential purchaser for the pubs group were at a "reasonably advanced state". Joe McLean of Grant Thornton said: "If the shares are sold, the interests of employees and creditors, both secured and unsecured, will have been safeguarded."

No sweat

All manner of over-exertion looms this weekend. There's the futile running about of the London Marathon on Sunday. Before that, however, teams will take part in the ninth Cisco City Challenge of mental and physical tasks at Goodwood racecourse on Saturday. The winners qualify for a World Team Challenge in the US. Mudlark plans a lie-in.


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