‘My £450,000 is not enough’: Fallen director-general George Entwistle asked for MORE to leave the BBC, reveals Lord Patten

 

By MARTIN ROBINSON

  • BBC Trust Chairman Lord Patten defended Mr Entwistle’s £450,000 payoff after just 54 days in the job as Director-General
  • Before his dramatic resignation, Mr Entwistle asked Lord Patten ‘Are you urging me to go?’ Trust chairman replied, ‘No, but we are not urging you to stay’
  • They finally agreed a deal of one year’s salary, legal fees and private healthcare for 12 months
  • If Savile inquiries conclude Mr Entwistle breached broadcasting guidelines, BBC can claw back money
  • Lord Patten refuses to publish hours he works calling it ‘impertinent’
  • Licence fee payers will pick up bill for two BBC Savile inquiries, MPs told, with £200,000 spent so far
  • Those interviewed as part of Pollard review will each get up to £50,000 of legal fees paid, acting DG Tim Davie reveals

In a fiery session with MPs, the chairman of the Corporation’s Trust said he refused to sign off more than a year’s salary as part of Mr Entwistle’s severance package after just 54 days in the job – but admitted the deal was still ‘one hell of a lot of money’.

Lord Patten also said he wished Mr Entwistle had only taken the six months’ pay he was entitled to after his dramatic resignation on Saturday November 10 because his reputation has been ‘demolished’ as a result.

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Cost: Lord Patten told MPs this mornings that taxpayers must 'bear the cost'Revelations: Lord Patten has lifted the lid on what happened on the day George Entwistle resigned and the decision to pay him £450,000 to leave

Speaking to the Commons’ Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, alongside acting Director General Tim Davie, Lord Patten also revealed his final conversation with Mr Entwistle.

Mr Entwistle asked ‘are you urging me to resign?’, to which Lord Patten replied, ‘No, we are not urging you to go but we are not urging you to stay.’ Shortly afterwards he quit.

 

 

The catalyst was when BBC2’s Newsnight wrongly implicated Lord McAlpine in a child abuse scandal – leading to a £185,000 damages pay-out to the peer.

The then director general had been under fire for weeks over an apparently slow and unconvincing response to the Jimmy Savile abuse scandal and his decision to continue with tribute programmes to the late DJ last Christmas even though he had known Savile was the subject of an earlier Newsnight investigation.

Conversation: On the day he resigned George Entwistle asked if Patten was urging him to resign, and he said he wasn't but wasn't going to urge him to stayConversation: On the day he resigned George Entwistle asked if Patten was urging him to resign, and he said he wasn’t but wasn’t going to urge him to stay

There was incredulity among MPs when it emerged last week that Mr Entwistle insisted on a full 12 months salary before quitting – even though he was contractually entitled to just half that amount.

In addition, he will receive £35,000 for legal expenses and £10,000 for ‘media management’ as well as 12 months private medical cover.

ENTWISTLE’S EXTRAORDINARY PAY-OFF TO LEAVE THE BBC

One year’s salary – £450,000

Bupa health policy – £1,200 per year

Legal fees for setting up deal – up to £10,000

Legal fees for 2 Newsnight inquiries – £25,000

‘Communications budget’ – £10,000

Pension pot – £883,000 or £40,000 per year

Today, Lord Patten defended the payout and maintained it was the right one declaring that the Corporation could have faced a tribunal had the settlement not been agreed swiftly.

Mr Entwistle had wanted to leave through a ‘consensual termination of his contract’, but had insisted on leaving the corporation ‘on 12 months or more’, he said.

After discussions with lawyers it became clear to him that without doing a deal, the case could develop into one of constructive dismissal or unfair dismissal, ultimately costing even more.

He said: ‘£450,000 is one hell of a lot of money.

‘The idea that I did not understand how politically difficult it would be suggests a degree of political innocence on my part which I have to tell you does not exist.

‘But the options I had were absolutely clear.

‘We either had to deal with it quickly there and then, broadly speaking on the terms of 12 months, though that was less than we were asking for, or we had to go to constructive dismissal and constructive dismissal would have landed us with exactly the same amount of money, plus almost certainly another £80,000 of unfair dismissal.’

At times, the former governor of Hong Kong looked uncomfortable and was asked if he should also resign because he was the man who recruited Mr Entwistle.

Wish: Lord Patten said that Mr Entwistle was a 'decent man' adding he had struggled to cope with the crisis that engulfed the BBC when he was in chargeWish: Lord Patten said that Mr Entwistle was a ‘decent man’ adding he had struggled to cope with the crisis that engulfed the BBC when he was in charge

Discussing Mr Entwistles pay-deal he continued: ‘I do wish that his lawyers had counselled him strongly to accept £225,000, of course I do, because I think he does not deserve the damage to his reputation.’

Mr Entwistle is ‘a decent man and doesn’t deserve to be bullied or have his character demolished’, he added.

Committee chairman John Whittingdale said Mr Entwistle’s own performance in front of the committee had been ‘depressing’.

Lord Patten said it had cost £186,000 in recruitment costs to fill the seat eventually taken by Mr Entwistle.

‘Pretty much everyone said at the time it was a very good choice,” he said.

‘I think he was completely overwhelmed by Savile and all that came after it.’

He said he thought Mr Entwistle ‘found it incredibly difficult to cope with a crisis in which he had been initially involved.’

He found it ‘much more difficult than you or I’, he told MPs, ‘to cope with photographers and cameras at his door’.

‘We have maybe got thicker skins,’ he added.

At every stage he was taking advice from lawyers Baker & McKenzie, the peer added.

‘I discussed it with Baker & McKenzie among other things on this basis – when I have to defend this in front of the PAC (Public Accounts Committee) is it defensible?

‘Their agreement was not only is it defensible but it is better than any other course of action, unless we wanted the BBC to drift on without somebody at the top.’

‘What did we get in return?,’ he said. ‘First of all we got a settlement that was less than we would have got had we gone through constructive dismissal.

Grilled: BBC Trust chairman Lord Patten (right) and acting director general Tim Davie were at times given a tough time by MPsGrilled: BBC Trust chairman Lord Patten (right) and acting director general Tim Davie were at times given a tough time by MPs today

‘Secondly, we got a warranty from Mr Entwistle that if Pollard or anything else finds that has has done anything which is in breach of his contract or the BBC disciplinary guidelines, we can claw back some of the remunerations that has been paid.’

Asked whether money had been kept back, Lord Patten said it would not be paid until December.

He added: ‘When we were doing that deal on Saturday night in difficult circumstances I was not unaware of the fact that I would have to explain it very carefully to committees like this in the future because licence feepayers would inevitably be very concerned about it.’

Conservative MP Angie Bray said that ‘some people might find it very strange’ that the new director general Tony Hall would be drawing a pension from the BBC when he starts work due to his previous employment at the BBC.

Lord Patten said he had paid his contribution to his pension.

He said it was ‘maybe’ correct to say Entwistle would still be in the job if he had taken more decisive action.

‘I hope he will still be able to do a terrific job somewhere in the media,’ he said.

An MP told the committee that a constituent told him about the Entwistle pay off: ‘If that’s honourable, I’m a banana.’

TIMELINE: THE DAY THAT ENTWISTLE AGREED TO QUIT FOR £450,000

Entwistle

Saturday November 10, 2012

9am: After two disastrous interviews on Radio 4 and 5Live George Entwistle says he ‘still has a job to do’ and will not quit as director general

2.45pm: Entwistle meets the BBC Trust board and they discussed his management of the crisis at and he leaves the meeting knowing that he did not have their full confidence

3.45pm: After he exits the room trustees discuss they are concerned that he is not taking the situation as seriously as they think he should and discuss the options open to them. He then asks Lord Patten if he wants him to quit and he says ‘no’, but would not urge him to stay

5pm: Mr Entwistle tells BBC’s human resources about the terms he would be willing to accept to quit his job – more than a year’s salary plus other perks

8pm: After legal discussions BBC Trust chairman Lord Patten calls members of its remuneration committee to discuss the severance package

8.45pm: A meeting of the Trust was hastily convened to rubber-stamp the deal

9pm: George Entwistle announces that he has resigned

VIDEO: Arguably we could have been faster reacting to Savile claims. Lord Patten faces inquiry

 

Taxpayers will have to ‘bear the costs’ of the BBC inquiries in the wake of the Jimmy Savile scandal, ‘however much they are’, Lord Patten also revealed today.

MPs were also told that 40 individuals will be interviewed as part of the Pollard Review, including failed Director General George Entwistle, who could get up to £50,000 of legal fees paid ‘in extreme circumstances’, taking the potential bill to £2million.

BBC Trust chairman Lord Patten said this probe, which is examining a shelved Newsnight report into Jimmy Savile’s abuse, is expected to be completed by Christmas, but a second review led by Dame Janet Smith, looking at the culture and practices of the BBC during the years in which Jimmy Savile worked there, could take much longer.

PATTEN CLASHES WITH MP WHO SAYS HE MUST PROVE HOURS HE WORKS

Chris Patten

BBC Trust chairman Lord Patten was forced to defend his role amid scathing criticism by MPs today.

He became embroiled in a spat with Conservative MP Philip Davies as he was grilled about his job.

Asked by Mr Davies to supply a full itinerary of his daily work for the corporation, the peer refused, saying the question was ‘impertinent’.

Lord Patten had been asked how many days he devoted to his job as chairman of the BBC Trust, saying: ‘At the moment about eight’.

He said he spent three or four days a week on BBC premises, but probably more on BBC work outside that.
Pressed on the point later in the meeting, he was asked for an itinerary of his day by Mr Davies, to which he refused, saying: ‘I think it’s a thoroughly impertinent question’.

‘I think you’re entitled to know how much time I’m spending, I think you’re entitled to put down freedom of information requests for how many days I spend in the office, or how many days I spend doing other things.

‘But if you think I am going to do a diary for you in order to satisfy some populist pursuit of somebody you didn’t want to run an organisation which you don’t want to exist, you are kidding yourself.

‘Do you want to know my toilet habits? What else do you want to know?’

Mr Davies fought the apparent slapdown, saying: ‘Given you have been presiding over a shambles at the BBC I think it’s perfectly reasonable to say have you been actually putting in the hours, putting in the yard as you should have been as chairman of the BBC Trust.’

After declaring other roles that he received remuneration for, Lord Patten said: ‘I don’t have anything else to add.’

Lord Patten said it was impossible to predict how much the reviews, which were ordered in the wake of allegations over Jimmy Savile, would cost.

He said they were expecting the Pollard report next month, ‘certainly before Christmas’, but said the second review would take longer, because of a ‘huge email trawl’ that needs going through.

Asked about the cost of the inquiries – which he said would be met by the licence payer – Lord Patten said: ‘We don’t yet know, but they will clearly be expensive, partly because of the number of lawyers involved.

Costs: BBC acting director general Tim Davie gives evidence at the Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee and said individuals could get up to £50,000 in legal costsCosts: BBC acting director general Tim Davie gives evidence at the Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee and said individuals could get up to £50,000 in legal costs

‘The Pollard inquiry has a QC who does the questioning at each session and I am told that QCs don’t come cheap.

‘I don’t see how we could conceivably set down a capped cost without seeming to cap the work of the inquiries.’

He added: ‘Other institutions which allowed Jimmy Savile to work and operate have not yet agreed inquiries into what actually happened, even though it’s a couple of months since the allegations were made.

‘We think we have gone about this in exactly the right way and I am afraid we must bear the costs, however much they are.’

Lord Patten said the full Pollard Review would be published.

Acting director-general Tim Davie said the money for the report was coming from a contingency fund.

‘One of the things we feel very strongly about is that it should not impact on programme-making areas,’ he said.

Lord Patten defended spending just three days on the inquiry into what went wrong into the second, botched Newsnight investigation, saying the “issues were more straight-forward”.

He said there had been ‘appalling editorial judgment’ and that the ‘journalism involved, to be polite, was shoddy’.

He said disciplinary hearings were currently taking place into what went wrong with the second

Newsnight programme, which wrongly implicated Lord McAlpine in child abuse.

Mr Davie said of the investigation: ‘You have a limited cast of characters and you can quickly get to a fair assessment of events.’

Lord Patten said it was right that he did not get involved when he saw tweets referring to the second Newsnight investigation.

‘It would have been inappropriate, when the tweets on that Friday were reported to me, to have intervened and say ‘What are you doing with that programme?’, he said.

‘I did the following day, having seen the programme, seek the director-general’s confirmation that Newsnight was being properly managed. I was assured on that Saturday that it was,’ he said.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2239143/George-Entwistle-asked-MORE-leave-BBC-Lord-Patten-admits-payoff-hell-lot-money.html#ixzz2DRExS11u
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