Shareholder revolt at WPP's bonus scheme

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The Independent Online

Nearly a quarter of WPP shareholders failed to back the bonus scheme that could net the advertising giant's chief executive Sir Martin Sorrell $95m (£57m) over the next five years.

The shareholder revolt came as WPP said its underlying revenues tumbled by 6.7 per cent over the first four months of the year. The owner of the advertising agency Ogilvy & Mather also said it had culled 4,300 of staff, 3.7 per cent of its workforce, over the period, although more than half left voluntarily.

Seventeen per cent of the votes cast were against the decision to award Sir Martin the huge bonus scheme. In addition, 9.5 per cent of shareholders withheld their vote, meaning that nearly 25 per cent did not back the remuneration report. Under the share scheme, he can invest $19m worth of WPP shares between 2010 and 2015.

He could also be granted up to five times that amount – $95m – in free shares. But to achieve the full pay-out, WPP would have to hit targets that would put its performance in the top 10 per cent of nine of its peers. In 2008, Sir Martin earned £3.14m, including a short-term cash bonus of £1.25m.

On a reported basis, WPP's worldwide revenues grew 33.7 per cent over the four months, boosted by its acquisition of Taylor Nelson Sofres in October. However, WPP's chairman Philip Lader said April trading was "worse" than the first quarter. "Although revenues were below budget for the first four months of 2009, headline operating profit and headline operating margin were both above budget," he said.