What a blunder for Persimmon plc CEO, Jeff Fairburn, to walk off camera this morning when politely asked by the BBC, as part of a positive interview about his company’s success, about his £75M bonus.

Clearly his bonus wasn’t what he was intending to talk about. And, having been awarded some while back, it isn’t news. But – as the biggest ever paid in the UK – he should expect it to keep cropping up and should surely be capable of explaining why he deserves it?  (The question wasn’t even actually about the justification for his bonus but simply whether he regretted the fuss it had provoked.)

Assuming he wanted the attention to be on another topic, squirming and walking off was the worst thing he could possibly have done. He could have easily turned it around to say how the backlash had detracted from the achievements of his company – a great British business success story in difficult economic times.

Even if, for some mysterious reason, he felt unable to discuss it, his second best option was calmly to explain why and confidently stick to his chosen topic. Instead, he looked lost, mumbled, hesitated and – with one of his team audibly trying to intervene in the background – walked off, looking out of control of the situation with something to hide.

Now nobody knows what Fairburn was there to discuss today – the rest of the interview has been discarded as an irrelevance. The story has become entirely about him running away when asked a simple question about his bonus.  It’s a story of his making, recorded – unfortunately for him – in a piece of TV footage that will never go away.


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