Christian Salvesen, the struggling haulier, yesterday suffered a rebuke over controversial two-year contracts when nearly a third of its shareholders refused to back its report on directors' remuneration.
The protest vote centred on disquiet that the company's chief executive, Edward Roderick, would walk away with nearly £1m if he were forced out. Peter Aspden, finance director, is also on a two-year rolling contract.
Such deals have become very unpopular with investors because they can allow directors to collect hefty "golden goodbyes" even if asked to leave a company after a poor performance.
Salvesen saw 72 per cent of shareholders voting for its remuneration report at its annual general meeting, with 18 per cent abstaining and 9 per cent voting against it.
A spokesperson for the company said the vote "clearly sent a message" about directors' pay. It indicated that all new directors would be put on one year's notice, but refused to give a clear statement about whether it would attempt to renegotiate the pay of Mr Roderick and Mr Aspden.
The two have come under pressure after Salvesen's shares have slumped to a third of their value in 2000 and the company has been forced to issue profits warnings. The company has emphasised that it has been struggling with the slowing in European economies, where it does much of its business.
In contrast, Rolls-Royce said it would embrace what is widely seen as best practice by the corporate governance lobby, by halving the potential pay-off of its chief executive, Sir John Rose. The company said Sir John had volunteered to cut his notice period from two years to one without compensation in a move that would cost him £1m if he lost his job. Colin Green, head of Rolls-Royce's defence aerospace arm, will see his contract trimmed in a similar way.
Separately, it emerged that the former chief executive of insurance software business The Innovation Group will take with him £437,500 in return for leaving the company.
Rob Terry, who set up TIG six years ago, stepped down as chief executive in February. He is entitled to the money because at the time he negotiated a two-year agreement to provide management consultancy services to the company. Mr Terry, who will leave in September, collected £8m when the shares were floated and retains a 16 per cent stake in TIG, worth £9m.
He was replaced as chief executive by Hassan Sadiq, who refocused the business on organic growth after a turbulent period of acquisitions by TIG.
A TALE OF THREE EXECUTIVES
Edward Roderick: Chief executive of Christian Salvesen. Would walk away with nearly £1m if forced out
Sir John Rose: chief executive of Rolls-Royce. Volunteered to cut notice period from two years to one
Rob Terry: Former chief executive of TIG. Collected £8m when its shares were floatedReuse content