WPP chief Sorrell left bloody-nosed by shareholder backlash


Shareholders at WPP (LON:WPP) snubbed chief executive Sir Martin Sorrell’s pay package today as the "Shareholder Spring" spilled over into summer.

A reported 59.5 per cent of shareholders of the world’s largest advertising agency who voted by proxy opposed the remuneration report at the company’s AGM in Dublin.

Sorrell’s annual pay package, reportedly as much as £13 million in total, would put the ad man in second place in the list of the UK’s highest earning corporate bosses behind Barclays’ (LON:BARC) chief Bob Diamond.

Sorrell claimed his pay is not as substantial as people think, but today’s vote followed a 42 per cent vote against his pay at the previous AGM. Shareholder advisory group PIRC had urged investors to vote against the WPP deal last week.

There was also a strong opposition to the chair of the company’s compensation committee, Jeffrey Rosen. Some 22 per cent of shareholders voted against his re-election as a non-executive director at today’s meeting, while a further 12 per cent refused to back chairman Philip Lader.

The pay vote is not binding and will not force WPP to review its pay policy but Lader said the board would consult with shareholders after today’s vote and then "move forward in the best interest of our share owners and our business”.

Today’s rebellion is the latest in a wave of revolts against excessive rewards for senior executives.

Trinity Mirror (LON:TNI), AstraZeneca (LON:AZN), Aviva (LON:AV.), Pendragon (LON:PDG) and Immarsat (LON:ISAT) have all seen hefty opposition to their remuneration reports, with the bosses at Trinity and Aviva subsequently standing down. 

In a trading update before the AGM, WPP forecast like-for-like revenue growth would top 4 per cent in 2012 with a “slightly stronger second half”. Shares tumbled 18 pence or 2.3 per cent to 750 pence.


Quick facts: WPP PLC

Price: 700.6 GBX

Market: LSE
Market Cap: £8.58 billion

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