With New Pay Plan In Place, Fewer Shareholders Protest At WPP Meeting

WPP CEO Martin Sorrell took a roughly one-third reduction in total compensation last year. He only made around $62 million.

As a result, far fewer feathers were ruffled among WPP shareholders voting at the company’s annual meeting today on the firm’s executive compensation policy.

The company did away with a long-term incentive plan known as LEAP, which enabled Sorrell to collect more than $90 million in total pay in 2015.

That riled a lot of shareholders at last year’s meeting, as votes representing roughly one-third of company shares were cast against the pay policy.  

Today, with a revised compensation plan that puts a lower ceiling on potential long-term incentive pay than in the past, nearly 80% of votes cast were in favor of a the new plan.

Shareholders at the meeting also questioned board chairman Roberto Quarta about CEO succession planning.



Sorrell is now 72 and likely will run the company for a few more years; however, there is no heir apparent in the wings. (Former Publicis Groupe CEO Maurice Levy, 75, stepped down at the end of May.) Quarta indicated that succession is a priority and plans are in the works.  

WPP also reported some improvement in organic revenue growth for the first four months of the year (versus first-quarter results) while organic net sales growth declined slightly. 

Organic revenue growth was up 0.7% overall through April, better than the 0.2% reported for the first three months of the year. Organic net sales growth was also 0.7% through April, down a tick from the 0.8% reported for the first quarter. 

North America remained a drag on overall results: “North America, with year-to-date, like-for-like revenue and net sales growth of -2.7% and -1.6%, respectively, continued to be the weakest performing region, with advertising and media investment management, data investment management and parts of the Group’s healthcare businesses weaker, partly offset by stronger growth in the Group’s public relations and public affairs, branding & identity and digital, eCommerce and shopper marketing businesses,” according to a statement by Quarta at the meeting. 

The full-year outlook remains the same, with the company projecting just 2% revenue and net sales growth “reflecting the impact of a lower net new business record in the latter part of 2016,” Quarta added. That would be down from the roughly 3% growth the firm has achieved in the last couple of years. 

But Quarta noted in his statement that “new business activity and conversion rates have recently started to improve,” possibly indicating a faster rate of growth for the second half of the year. 

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