More security chaos for G4S in face of investor and activist fury

More than a fifth of shareholders revolt over pay awards at annual meeting
Click to follow
The Independent Online

The security company G4S could not even keep control of its own annual meeting on Thursday as the group's management – infamous for its mishandling of the London Olympics contract – was assailed by protesters from the floor and a large number of shareholders angry at executive pay.

More than one in five – 21 per cent – of shareholders voted against the group's executive pay awards, including £1.18m for the departed chief executive Nick Buckles, £746,000 for Trevor Dighton and £920,000 for Grahame Gibson.

However, thanks to the continued support of major shareholders including Invesco Perpetual's fund manager Neil Woodford, whose income fund owns an estimated 15 per cent of the company, the executives managed to secure their deal.

But G4S executives may have been left even more red-faced by a disruptive protest which broke out during the AGM regarding Jimmy Mubenga, an Angolan man who died while being deported by G4S guards.

G4S's chairman, John Connolly, was some five minutes into his address when a group of 10 protesters reacted to a very loud klaxon by jumping up from their seats and rushing to the front of the room of shareholders. They could be heard shouting "Jimmy Mubenga" and calling for justice for his death. The group was removed from the room in less than a minute.

Mr Mubenga, 46, became ill on a British Airways plane preparing to leave Heathrow airport after he was restrained by the guards Terence Hughes, Stuart Tribelnig and Colin Kaler, in October 2010. He later died in hospital, leaving behind his widow, Adrienne Makenda Kambana, and five children. In July last year, it was decided that no action would be taken against G4S staff over the death.

Speaking after the AGM, Mr Connolly said of the protesters : "Their behaviour wasn't terrible. They made their point and allowed themselves to be taken out of the room. They didn't overdo it."

The new chief executive, Ashley Almanza, said he was "entirely comfortable facing the shareholders. One of the virtues of living in a democracy is that people are able to express their views. I think it's absolutely fine."

But the trouble did not end there. As well as pro-Palestinian protesters on the sidelines demonstrating against the group's links with Israel, the record of Mr Buckles was lambasted by shareholders, with one questioner from the floor saying he had failed to defend the company in front of MPs over the bungled Olympic contract and accusing him of being "stupid" for having agreed to a beefed-up security provision deal for the London Games so late in the day.

At the time, the company faced a wave of public and parliamentary anger as it admitted that it could not supply the agreed number of staff to manage the games.

Mr Buckles announced last month that he would be quitting the group after it issued a profits warning. His estimated £1.2m payoff drew angry reactions from MPs, who remembered his performance in front of the Home Affairs Select Committee, when answering for the Olympics debacle. The chairman of the committee, Keith Vaz, said it must not be mistaken for a reward for "spectacular failure".

The Olympics contract, which ultimately cost G4S £88m, saw thousands of troops and police drafted in to guard the Games at the last minute after the company found it could not recruit staff quick enough. Mr Buckles admitted it was a "humiliating shambles". He has been replaced by Mr Almanza, who joined the company just three weeks ago as chief financial officer from BG Group.