Shares bonanza for pay master

February 18, 2000

Sir Michael Bett, who chaired the independent pay review committee for higher education, stood to make Pounds 1.5 million this week from his shares in an internet company.

This was the value of Sir Michael's 1.15 per cent share in, which this week floated on the London Stock Exchange's Alternative Investment Market. operates business-to-business websites in the electrical power, air freight, pulp and paper and road transport industries.

The company's chief executive is Karl Watkins, a prominent businessman, who has an 11.6 per cent stake worth more than Pounds 15 million. Sir Michael is chairman. Entrepreneur Luke Johnson's stake was valued at Pounds 3 million and Labour politician Alan Donnelly's at Pounds 1.8 million. Mr Donnelly invested Pounds 1,250 on December 20 1999, shortly after standing down as a party leader in the European Parliament.

According to The Times, there are no companies comparable to in the UK. A similar company, VerticalNet, exists in the US, valued at $7.7 billion (Pounds 4.4 billion). It operates 56 industry websites and has a joint venture with British Telecom.

Sir Michael is a former chairman of BT Cellnet, the mobile phone company, and a civil service commissioner. His pay review for higher education did not explicitly put a price on the cost of its recommendations. Calculations based on the recommendations put the price at more than Pounds 720 million.

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