Berkett severed in Virgin Media buy-out

After tackling the tough negotiations for Virgin Media to be bought out by Liberty Global, CEO Neil Berkett’s contract is being terminated with $19.6m in severance pay

Neil Berkett, the current CEO of Virgin Media, is being given the boot rather than resigning his post when he leaves the company later this year.

A US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filing from Liberty Global – the US firm which announced it was buying Virgin Media for $23.3bn (£15bn) in February – claimed the executive, who has held his post since 2008, was already planning to leave the company before the end of 2013.

However, it has been confirmed to Computer Weekly that Berkett will receive severance pay of $19.6m – equivalent to twice his salary – which the SEC filing said he was only entitled to “if Virgin Media Limited terminates Mr Berkett’s employment without cause… and chooses to pay him in lieu of his entitlement to 30 days’ notice, or if his employment is terminated by Virgin Media Limited without cause during the period commencing on the date of a change in control of Virgin Media and ending on the first anniversary date thereof.”

If Liberty Global has decided it does not want Berkett around any more, it will come as little surprise to those familiar with the negotiations of the deal.

The SEC filing shows how Berkett took control of negotiations, with permission of Virgin Media’s board of directors, and played hardball with the Liberty executives, continuing to push the price up, increase the share between cash and stocks in the final price, and ensure Virgin Media was represented on the company’s board after acquisition.

On top of the severance pay, Berkett will also be entitled to $13.5m in long-term incentive pay-outs, which are being paid automatically because of the takeover, and the equivalent of $53.7m in share options that he built up over the years.

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