The advertising giant WPP is reeling after 60 per cent of shareholders voted against its chief executive Sir Martin Sorrell's controversial £13m pay deal.
While yesterday's revolt was expected, the full extent appeared to stun the board directors as they watched the results appear on TV screens at the annual meeting in Dublin.
This is just the latest big vote against pay at a top FTSE-100 company after protests at Aviva, Cairn Energy, Pendragon and Trinity Mirror.
Sir Martin, one of Britain's most respected captains of industry, looked subdued and grim faced.
Jeffrey Rosen, the chairman of the remuneration committee, wore a particularly anguished expression. Nearly 22 per cent of shareholders voted against his re-election. Two other non-executives, Koichiro Naganuma and Ruigang Li, faced votes against of nearly 30 per cent. But Sir Martin won the backing of 98 per cent.
But investors were furious about his package because it included a 30 per cent rise in his basic salary to £1.3m and an increase in his long-term bonus to 500 per cent of salary.
Several influential shareholder advisory groups, including ISS and Pirc, recommended a vote against.
Close to 42 per cent of shareholders opposed the remuneration report last year, when anger was focused on the pay of digital boss Mark Read.
Louise Rouse of pressure group Fair Pensions, who spoke from the floor, asked the directors why "in the light of the warning that shareholders issued last year, we're facing another significant protest vote?" No other shareholder spoke as few had travelled to Dublin, where WPP relocated for tax reasons in 2008.
A Pirc spokesman said: "It is very important that, as a high-profile FTSE 100 company, WPP responds constructively to the vote. This is a key moment in the relationship between shareholders and companies over top pay."
Votes at UK-listed companies are non-binding but the result was still a huge embarrassment for the world's biggest advertising group.
WPP chairman Philip Lader
said: "We'll communicate with many shareholders and we'll move forward in the best interests of our shareholders and the business."