Shareholders rebel over pay package for CEO at WPP

Sir Martin Sorrell
Sir Martin Sorrell
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Shareholders have dealt a bloody nose to WPP over the advertising giant’s £48m pay package for chief executive Sir Martin Sorrell.

More than 21 per cent of investors opposed or abstained when asked to vote on the remuneration report at the firm’s annual general meeting (AGM) on Wednesday.

While the vote was not binding, the level of discontent will be embarrassing for the FTSE 100 firm, which cut Sir Martin’s total pay to £48.1m for last year, from £70.4m for 2015. However, the level of protest over WPP’s new remuneration policy, which will hand executives lower long term incentive awards, was at a more modest 10 per cent.

The results ensured WPP faced a shareholder backlash for the second year in a row after more than a third of investors refused to back Sir Martin’s pay deal at the 2016 AGM.

It comes as the company also gave a trading update on Wednesday for the first four months of this year, with reported revenues rising 16 per cent to £4.8bn thanks to a boost from the Brexit-hit pound.

Stripping out acquisitions and the impact of sterling’s slump, like-for-like revenue stepped up by 0.7 per cent in contrast to last year and ahead of the 0.2 per cent growth seen in the first quarter.

Chairman Roberto Quarta said: “The pattern of revenue and net sales growth in the first four months of 2017 is generally the same as the first quarter of the year, with the month of April showing stronger revenue growth, particularly in UK and Asia Pacific, Latin America, Africa & the Middle East and Central & Eastern Europe, with Western Continental Europe weaker and marginally softer net sales growth.”

The drop in Sir Martin’s pay packet for 2016 reflected the falling value of his long-term share incentive plan, known as LEAP, which eased back from £62.8m to just over £41 m.

The WPP founder’s short-term bonuses also headed south, dropping from £4.3m to around £3m, but he still remains the highest paid chief executive in the FTSE 100. Standard Life Investments, which manages 19 million shares in WPP, also urged the board to take action over succession planning after Sir Martin moves on.

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