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Virgin Media CEO to Leave With $86.8 Million After Sale to Liberty Global

Neil Berkett P

Neil Berkett will exit with $19.6 million in severance and more in options and rewards once John Malone's firm finishes its takeover of the U.K. cable company.

LONDON -- John Malone's Liberty Global recently said that Virgin Media CEO Neil Berkett would leave his post once Liberty Global completes its planned $16 billion acquisition of the U.K. cable operator.

Late Thursday, it emerged that he will leave with a $86.8 million exit package, including $19.6 million in cash and stock in severance. The information was contained in a regulatory filing.

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A spokeswoman told Bloomberg News that the other $67.2 million is made up of stock options and rewards under Berkett's long-term incentive plan. 

The CEO, born in New Zealand, had always said that he would leave his post by the end of 2013, and the Liberty Global deal presents a logical time to depart.

Virgin Media competes with British satellite TV giant BSkyB, in which Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. owns a 39 percent stake.

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According to the regulatory filing, a possible Liberty Global play for Virgin Media was first discussed during a social function in August. At the event, Liberty Global CEO Mike Fries lauded the company's turnaround following its emergence from bankruptcy in 2003.

Virgin Media rejected several acquisition proposals and said it would only discuss a deal if it was offered a "compelling" price tag, according to the filing. The two then entered formal talks in December.

The companies recently said that a search for a new Virgin Media CEO had started.

Email: Georg.Szalai@thr.com
Twitter: @georgszalai