Simon English: The short knight, the tall pay and an investor rebellion
Outlook For comedy purposes only, we return, with great reluctance, to Sir Martin Sorrell. Here's the man some call June 21st – that's the shortest (k)night – discussing the fuss over his gigantic pay: "We understand what people are concerned about and the board will be consulting widely with shareholders to find out specifically what they have in mind."
Sir Martin is speaking here as if the row is some mysterious business, its providence and meaning beyond the perception of a mere chief executive. We'll commission a report! A full and thorough investigation!
A recap: the WPP boss saw 60 per cent of normally compliant City investors rebel against his £13m pay deal for 2011, a year when the shares fell by 14 per cent.
So specifically what they have in mind is this: they're being ripped off, and they would like it to stop. It is in the way of executive pay deals that even this extraordinary rebuff is non-binding, and of course they didn't actually vote to kick him out. So in theory, and perhaps in practice, he can keep being awarded similar amounts no matter what happens to shareholder returns.
Over 10 years, WPP shares are pretty much flat, which does suggest that the investor who has done best from WPP is Sir Martin Sorrell.
There isn't a firm definition of excessive executive pay. But it seems fair to suggest that it is rather like pornography. You know it when you see it.
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