Appeals for pay restraint go down like a lead balloon at 4 Fenchurch Avenue, home of Walsham Brothers, the top Lloyd's insurance business. Chairman Bill Brown receives Britain's biggest ever annual salary, at £8,136,274 - or £22,291 a day.
Having the biggest monthly cheque is nothing new to Brown, a 55-year-old Cockney. His two previous annual salaries were £2 million and £4 million respectively. Even so, last year he was actually overtaken in the pay stakes by Paul Sykes, the Yorkshire property dealer and miner's son who walked off with some £6 million.
Brown's earnings - the sort of money in a day that many a manager earns in a year - are the reward for being Lloyd's top broker; he deals with high risk insurance claims such as oil tanker spillages and big disasters.
Walsham, which is totally owned by the Brown family, is one of Britain's most profitable companies. In 1989 it produced an enviable £20.4 million post-tax profit on a £36.6 million turnover. This sort of performance would make the Brown family worth well over £200 million if Walsham were floated on the stock market. But it is doubtful whether anyone would be prepared to pay that sort of money for a business which clearly depends on the skills of Brown and his three brothers - Henry, James and Ronald. As the advertising industry shows, taking over a people business usually ends in grief if those who have built it and then sold up simply walk out with the loot, as soon as they can legally make their escape.
But the Browns have no real need of any more money. William, recently divorced from his first wife, Angela, lives with his second, a former airline stewardess, in a Chelsea harbour penthouse. In addition he has a luxury flat in Hove and a holiday home in Jersey. His cars include a Rolls-Royce, a Ferrari, a Porsche and a Mercedes with the distinctive number plate BILLY. His two daughters, Kelly and Emma, are both international show jumpers. Presumably, feeding and grooming the horses is well within Bill's means. It is all a far cry from his early days in the East End of London. He joined Lloyds as a teenager and became a member in 1958.
Walsham's largesse extends to most of its staff. The average wage for 114 employees is £17,114. Two of Brown's brothers enjoy salaries in excess of £470,000, putting them in the first division of pay rates as well. Walsham also dishes out considerable sums to charity, some £151,000 in its latest accounts. But the whole issue is inevitably horribly embarrassing to the Browns.
The word from Fenchurch Avenue is simple: "Mr Brown does not discuss matters like this." But what Management Today wants to know is: since his salary has doubled each year for the past two, will William Brown be earning £16 million this year? That should be quite some pay award.