Ladbrokes owner GVC hit by investor rebellion over pay

Ladbrokes and Coral owner GVC has suffered a stinging shareholder revolt over pay despite its boss agreeing to a £150,000 salary cut in an attempt to calm investor anger.

Britain’s biggest bookmaker, which has more than 3,400 betting shops, said 42% of investor votes were made against pay plans for top bosses at its annual general meeting (AGM).

It comes in spite of an 11th-hour move by chief executive Kenny Alexander last week to volunteer for his basic salary to be cut from £950,000 to £800,000 after “feedback” from investors.

But GVC’s recent annual report showed that Mr Alexander pocketed a total of £19.1 million last year after banking £16.4 million in “legacy awards”,
linked to the firm’s acquisition of bwin.party in 2016.

He also bagged a £1.8 million annual bonus and saw his basic salary jump 13%.

The AGM result marks one of the biggest investor rebellions of the year – and the second year in a row of embarrassing shareholder protests for GVC, which saw almost 44% of votes cast against its pay schemes at the 2018 AGM.

GVC pledged to talk with shareholders following the latest rebuke, although the pay plans were passed with 58% votes in favour.

Jane Anscombe, chairwoman of GVC’s remuneration committee, said the firm was “naturally disappointed” with the voting result.

She said: “We understand that some shareholders ultimately felt unable to support the remuneration report, in part due to our legacy arrangements, which going forward no longer form part of our remuneration framework.

“We will be engaging with shareholders further in the coming months to listen and reflect on their views on remuneration at GVC.”

She added that the group’s remuneration policy was due to be renewed at next year’s AGM and confirmed it would “engage with shareholders during this process”.

It has been a bumper past year for Mr Alexander and chairman Lee Feldman after the duo also toasted a £19.7 million payday in April as they cashed in from a share sale.

Mr Alexander and Mr Feldman raked in £13.7 million and £6 million respectively after offloading nearly three million shares between them.

However, those divestments, at £6.66 per share, sent GVC’s stock tumbling as investors were spooked by the news.

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