Business Irish

Friday 20 April 2018

WPP chief gets bloody nose as shareholders oppose pay deal

WPP chief executive Martin Sorrell.
WPP chief executive Martin Sorrell.
Peter Flanagan

Peter Flanagan

THE head of the world's biggest advertising firm was dealt a bloody nose yesterday after shareholders overwhelmingly voted against his pay deal.

Nearly 60pc of investors in WPP voted against the directors' remuneration report at the company's annual general meeting in Dublin.

The vote, which is not binding, demonstrated shareholder disgust at the compensation awarded to company chief executive Martin Sorrell, who had received a 30pc increase in his basic salary to £1.3m (€1.6m) and a 60pc jump in his total earnings, including bonuses, to almost £6.8m.

The result of the ballot is one of the biggest shareholder rebellions since the beginning of the so-called "shareholder spring" this year in which dozens of protest votes have been cast against executive pay.

Speaking after the meeting, group chairman Philip Lader said the board would take time to consider the ramifications of the vote.

"We take the remuneration report vote seriously," he said. "We'll consult with many share owners and we'll then move forward in the best interest of our share owners and our business."

He defended the board's decision to authorise the higher payout to Mr Sorrell, however, saying the board had used its "best judgment" following WPP's performance last year.

Mr Sorrell's pay had become something of a "cause celebre" in the corporate world in recent weeks, and he had publicly defended his remuneration, pointing to the growth in the company share price in the past 12 months despite the global economic turmoil.

Outperforming

WPP has gained almost 11pc so far this year, outperforming the wider FTSE 100 by 8pc.

The votes against shareholder pay have caused chaos in the corporate world this year, and led to the ousting of Aviva boss Andrew Boss after 56pc of shareholders revolted against his pay.

Mr Sorrel, however, is unlikely to depart. Over 98pc of investors backed his position on the board and, although he said he was "disappointed" with the vote, analysts said the chances of him leaving were remote.

WPP relocated to Dublin in 2008 for tax purposes. It has been widely expected to move back to London since 2011 but has yet to make such a move.

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