William Hill boss to receive £1.2m bonus

 

The UK's largest bookmaker William Hill signalled today that its boss will still get a £1.2 million pay-to-stay bonus, despite a major rebuke from shareholders.

Ralph Topping was awarded the all-shares pay-out, which will secure his services until the end of next year, as well as an 8.3% salary rise as part of his 2011 remuneration package.

Some 51.5% of shareholder votes went against or were withheld over the company's remuneration report in another sign of growing shareholder discontent over pay.

But in a clear signal that any clawback of the pay package is unlikely, chairman Gareth Davis said the move "was the right thing for the group, the shareholders and the longer-term future of the business that we retain Ralph Topping's services at this important time".

The protest vote at William Hill follows similar events at Barclays, Xstrata, Premier Foods and Aviva, which lost its chief executive Andrew Moss today.

Mr Davis said: "Ralph Topping has been instrumental in revitalising the fortunes of William Hill since taking the chief executive job in difficult circumstances four years ago."

William Hill saw its share price rise by 18% last year and also increased its dividend by 16%. Mr Topping's re-election also received the backing of 99.8% of investors.

Mr Davis added that it was in "shareholders' interests to ensure that Mr Topping remains with William Hill at a critical time in the group's evolution".

Mr Topping, who joined William Hill in 1973 and became chief executive in 2008, will now receive annual pay in excess of £1.7 million.

William Hill recorded a 9% increase in underlying profits to £239.4 million last year, as strong growth in its online business offset a slight decline in retail takings.

William Hill employs more than 15,000 people and has 2,370 betting offices.

PA

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