95,000 share options in a lobbying and public relations firm "give Hill a continuing financial interest in the company and its clients. These include dozens of high-profile firms such as the GM food company Monsanto."
Campbell successor in a spin on shares
The Sunday Times, August 31, 2003
ALASTAIR CAMPBELL'S successor was last night plunged into a row over his financial interests within 24 hours of his appointment. It emerged that he owns about 95,000 share options in a lobbying and public relations firm.
David Hill, the new director of communications, was granted the options by his current employer, Chime Communications, and cannot cash them in for several years.
The options give Hill a continuing financial interest in the company and its clients. These include dozens of high-profile firms such as the GM food company Monsanto.
The government may now be forced to step in and pay Hill a substantial "golden hello" in order that he surrender the options. If the matter is not quickly resolved, his credibility as the prime minister's spokesman could be undermined.
Details of Hill's share options are contained in the company's latest published accounts which were correct as of December 31, 2001. The firm confirmed last week that Hill continues to hold share options and it is thought he has amassed more since 2001.
The exact value of Hill's share options is not known but it is clear that they are worth many thousands of pounds. They will climb in value if Chime is successful at representing its clients' interests to the government, media and the public. They are likely to fall in value if it fails.
Details of the lucrative scheme will prove an embarrassment to Hill who faces claims that the options pose a "major conflict of interest" when dealing with government matters affecting Chime's clients.
Lord Simon, the former chairman of BP who became a government minister in 1997, was dogged by his shareholding in the company until he agreed to sell his stake.
Norman Baker, environment spokesman for the Liberal Democrats, said: "Following the Alastair Campbell era it is important that his successor starts with a clean slate and is shown to be whiter than white."
Hill is understood to have been given assurances that he can return to Chime Communications once he leaves Downing Street. He is regarded as a trustworthy Labour stalwart with a long political history. He worked as an adviser to Roy Hattersley in the 1970s and 1980s and was the Labour party's press chief between 1993 and 1998.
A Downing Street spokesman said: "David Hill will be employed in accordance with the rigorous rules governing the employment of special advisers, including those in relation to any potential conflict of interests." The rules do not force Hill to surrender his share options but he will have to declare them.
Hill was unavailable for comment yesterday.
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