Irish Nationwide chief paid €1.32m

IRISH Nationwide Building Society chief executive Michael Fingleton was paid €1.32 million last year.

Mr Fingleton's packages, which includes a bonus of 305,000 and pension contributions of 293,000, makes him one of the highest paid bosses in Ireland.

Mr Fingleton, who is in his late 60s, has been head of the institution for decades.

Last year, Irish Nationwide reported annual profits of €135 million a record for the society and 16% above the figure in 2003. His total remuneration packages puts him almost on a par with his counterpart in AIB, Michael Buckley, who earned €1.4m in 2004. AIB's profits exceeded €1.4 billion in 2004 and its assets were 10 times greater than Irish Nationwide.

Mr Fingleton's package is also greater than Irish Life & Permanent boss David Went, who earned just over €1 million last year.

At the building society's annual general meeting yesterday, chairman Michael Walsh told members it had met Environment Minister Dick Roche to discuss the delays in publishing new legislation which would allow the society to demutualise. The board is also seeking a meeting with Finance Minister Brian Cowen to seek his support.

Under current legislation, the society would have to wait five years after it demutualises before it can be taken over. The board of the society favours a quick sale, which would net the tens of thousands of members windfall payments of about €7,000.

"The minister said that he was anxious to deal with the proposed legislation and was not in favour of undue delay," said Mr Walsh.

However, one member said the current legislation had not prevented the demutualisation of Irish Permanent and First Active. Mr Walsh said had Irish Nationwide demutualised around the same time, it would be unlikely to be as valuable as it is. According to some estimates, the building society is worth more than €1 billion. The board favours a trade sale to another financial institution rather than a stock market listing.

"All I can do is say the board is committed to demutualisation and a structured transaction whereby we sell Irish Nationwide at its best," he added.

Some other shareholders were frustrated at the Government's failure to move quicker on the new legislation and one urged the thousands of members not to vote for Fianna Fáil. The changes to the Building Societies Act are expected later this year and a sale of the Irish Nationwide could happen in 2006.

Also at yesterday's meeting Brendan Burgess, who has long campaigned for a seat on the board and fairer treatment to borrowers who fall behind with repayments, failed in his attempt to win a seat on the board.

He got just about 10% of the votes.

Mr Burgess has stood for election to the board for a number of yearvs and said yesterday that he would not do so again if management "just reformed lending practices."

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