Whitbread board dealt blow over new pay proposal

Investors in Premier Inn owner Whitbread have dealt their board a bloody nose in a struggle over director pay.

Shareholders approved a plan which could see chief executive Alison Brittain take home more than four times her annual salary each year.

But many of the investors, invited to Whitbread’s general meeting on Friday, protested. Almost a third of them, 30%, voted against the proposal to change the way directors are paid.

It comes after two proxy advisers, whose opinions shareholders often lean on, recommended that investors should vote against the new deal.

PIRC joined ISS to say that the deal, which could hand out bumper bonuses, was a bad idea.

“The total potential awards under all incentive schemes are considered
excessive at 325% of salary,” PIRC said in a note late last week.

But a third adviser, Glass Lewis, swam against the tide, telling its customers that the new structure was a good idea.

On Friday Whitbread said: “Whilst the board is pleased that the remuneration policy has been supported by the majority of shareholders, it is acknowledged that a number of shareholders voted against the proposal.

“The board recognises that arriving at a position on remuneration that can meet the approval of all shareholders is very hard to do.”

It added: “The board believes that this proposal is the best structure to provide strong alignment with shareholders’ interests and the delivery of the company’s ambitious long-term plan to create value by investing in the UK and expanding internationally.”

The £3.9 billion sale of Costa to Coca-Cola netted Ms Brittain a hefty £3.7 million in the last financial year, bringing her total pay to £5.6 million.

Investors holding just over 68% of shares voted at the meeting.