Pay deal row over BP chief executive points to renewal of investor activism


The rebellion over BP boss Bob Dudley's pay deal signals a return to the investor activism seen amid the "shareholder spring" of 2012.

Bosses at firms including Barclays, insurer Aviva and drugs giant AstraZeneca were among those to suffer a backlash over their remuneration packages four years ago.

Former Aviva boss Andrew Moss quit the insurer in the wake of a devastating pay revolt by shareholders in 2012, when he saw 59% of shareholder votes cast against its pay report - at the time one of the biggest-ever shareholder protests in the City's history.

He had offered to waive a near-5% pay rise, which would have taken his annual salary over £1 million mark, but the move failed to appease investors angered by its share price performance at the time.

Britain's so-called shareholder spring likewise contributed to the downfall of AstraZeneca's chief executive David Brennan, as well as Sly Bailey of Trinity Mirror.

Sir Martin Sorrell, chief executive and founder of advertising giant WPP, remained in post, but faced a humiliating defeat at the hands of shareholders when nearly 60% rejected his £6.8 million pay packet at its AGM in June 2012.

He saw 59% of investors oppose the WPP directors' remuneration report. A further 0.8% of votes were withheld. 

Sports Direct International founder and Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley is yet another to have felt the wrath of angry investors, when suffering sizeable revolts over the firm's pay policy in 2014 and 2015.

BP is unlikely to be the only firm to suffer a rebellion over pay this year, with the boards of some of Britain's biggest companies such as Persimmon, HSBC, Astrazeneca, Reckitt Benckiser, WPP, and Centrica all braced for a backlash over executive pay as they prepare to hold their AGMs in the coming weeks.