WPP CEO Sir Martin Sorrell just received a princely payout -- roughly $38 million in company shares. The options for the shares were awarded to him in 2009 as part of a long-term incentive compensation program at the company. Sorrell exercised his option to receive the shares on February 28.
That program was part of a broader executive compensation package that riled WPP shareholders two years ago, when a majority of them voted against Sorrell’s pay package.
Those voting against the package thought it was excessive, particularly in comparison to other UK-based CEOs. Sorrell and the company, however, argued that it wasn’t excessive in relation to industry peers, such as Omnicom, Publicis and Interpublic.
Nevertheless, the company entered discussions with shareholders after the 2012 contretemps and last year, Sorrell agreed to reductions in both his base salary, by about 12% to $1.8 million and contributions to his pension. Also scaled back were the CEO’s opportunities under both the company’s short- and long-term incentive plans.
That seemed to appease shareholders last year, when fewer than 20% of votes cast against approval of the holding company’s executive remuneration report.
As for the $38 million stock windfall, a spokesman for the company said: “The award is evidence of superior rewards for executive management in return for superior performance for share owners.”
Last month, the company reported record revenues and profits for 2013. However, it missed its profit margin goal for the year, which it attributed largely to unexpected currency fluctuations. At the time, Sorrell told analysts the long-term margin outlook remained unchanged for the company, but that it would take the company somewhat longer to get there.