Elder working from home on full pay

VERNON SMALL
Last updated 17:45 07/03/2013
DON ELDER
KIRK HARGREAVES/Fairfax NZ
DON ELDER: Solid Energy's former boss.

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Former Solid Energy chief executive Don Elder is working from home and being paid the same salary he received as chief executive to help with the company's ''transition'', chairman Mark Ford has revealed. 

Elder quit the company on February 4 but was retained on pay for two months because his corporate memory was needed, Ford said yesterday.

''For a transition of something this big I need access to that man.''

In the final year as chief executive, Elder was paid an annual salary of $1.3 million.

The state coalminer is in talks with its banks and the Government over a bailout package after it piled up $389m in debt. 

Ford said its state was still precarious, but the board was putting together a package to bankers.

He hoped the company could return to profitability by 2015.

He repeatedly told Parliament's commerce select committee that he was unaware of details about meetings with ministers, and other details before he took over as chairman last year.

Labour MP Clayton Cosgrove asked that  Elder appear before the committee, but  Ford had said that was inappropriate. 

However, he had no objection to  Elder appearing, he said.Labour MPs have signalled they may use the committee's powers to subpoena him, though this is likely to be blocked by the Government's majority on the committee. 

National MPs on the committee yesterday blocked a move to extend the time to examine Solid Energy's chairman and management by 30 minutes.

But  Cosgrove said a summons might not be necessary if  Elder was willing to attend to answer questions. 

Ford said later that  Elder was free to speak to the media and he had placed no restrictions on that happening. 

Elder had received his contractual entitlements when he left. Cosgrove said Elder was on gardening leave.

''$1.3 million is a very expensive garden.''

He said if  Ford needed  Elder's ''institutional memory'' the committee today needed his memory too, to answer questions about how the company got into such trouble. 

Ford blamed ''the market'' especially the fall in coal prices, for the woes of the company, which he said was ''a basket case''.

Labour is also seeking a parliamentary inquiry into Solid Energy. 

Ford revealed that Wellington lobbyist Mark Unsworth had been hired to advise on ''committee protocol'' for today's appearance.

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- The Press

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