Exclusive: Investors tell Sorrell: You're pushing your luck

Advertising chief heads for fresh battle with shareholders over his pay packet

Leading shareholders in the advertising giant WPP have warned its chief executive, Sir Martin Sorrell, that he faces another nasty battle with them unless he agrees to a significant pay cut.

Sir Martin received a bloody nose over his pay during the shareholder spring, though his record meant that he did not end up being pushed out like Sly Bailey at Trinity Mirror and David Brennan at AstraZeneca.

Sources close to the group's board say Sir Martin is refusing to back down over the issue, despite seeing his £13m pay package voted down by investors in June. Sir Martin continues to insist that he is underpaid compared to his global rivals, having created a spawling media services empire that includes the public relations group Burson-Marsteller and the New York-based media buyer MEC.

Sir Martin's stance has become known to major investors, who warn that the 67-year-old is "pushing his luck". He also suffered a substantial vote against his remuneration in 2011.

"He doesn't seem to grasp that the shareholder environment has changed," one large institutional investor told The Independent. "The company has had a good run, but he needs to keep investors onside – otherwise there's going to be more kick-back."

Overall, 60 per cent of WPP failed to back Sir Martin's pay at the annual meeting in Dublin. However, the vote was non-binding, meaning he still picked up the £13m package, which 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.

Following the meeting, Sir Martin admitted that WPP had "misjudged the mood of shareholders". However, investors say he continues to risk falling out of favour with them, regardless of having built a £10bn business from scratch.

"We are grateful for the fact that he's grown WPP into a world champion, but he doesn't seem to realise that we own the company, not him," another shareholder said. "He has a stake in the group, of course, but so do a lot of other investors, who will not accept his pay demands unless they are lowered considerably."

In response, WPP said Philip Lader, the group's chairman, and Jeffrey Rosen, head of its remuneration committee, have been consulting with shareholders over executive pay. The company confirmed that no decision had yet been taken over Sir Martin's next pay package.

Mr Lader added: "Jeffrey and I have met with shareowners during an extensive listening tour to discern their specific views. After thorough board discussion of this shareowner input, we have initiated a second round of consultation, which will be reflected in actions to be taken by the board and presented to next year's AGM. This is an active, current process, with input being taken seriously, but [there are] no conclusions at this time."

News
Mickey Rourke celebrates his victory against opponent Elliot Seymour
people
News
Gordon and Tana Ramsay arrive at the High Court, London
newsTV chef gives evidence against his father-in-law in court case
News
Actor Burt Reynolds last year
people
News
people

Watch the spoof Thanksgiving segment filmed for Live!
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
The data shows that the number of “unlawfully” large infant classes has doubled in the last 12 months alone
i100Mike Stuchbery, a teacher in Great Yarmouth, said he received abuse
Arts and Entertainment
The starship in Star Wars: The Force Awakens
filmsThe first glimpse of JJ Abrams' new film has been released online
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of The Guest Cat – expect to see it everywhere
books
News
i100 Charity collates series of videos that show acts of kindness to animals
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Austen Lloyd: Company Secretary

Excellent Package: Austen Lloyd: EAST ANGLIA - SENIOR SOLICITOR LEVEL ROLE** -...

Citifocus Ltd: German Speaking Client Specialist

£Attractive Package: Citifocus Ltd: Prestigious asset management house seeks a...

Citifocus Ltd: Performance & Risk Oversight

£Negotiable: Citifocus Ltd: This is a varied role focusing on the firm's mutua...

h2 Recruit Ltd: Sales Director - SaaS (SME/Channel) - £140,000 OTE

£90000 - £140000 per annum + benefits: h2 Recruit Ltd: Are you a high achievin...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game