Sports Direct founder Mike Ashley is looking forward to a bumper payday after shareholders narrowly approved a controversial £200 million bonus scheme yesterday.
Almost 40 per cent of eligible shareholders voted against the proposal, which has been criticised by investor groups and the Institute of Directors (IoD).
The company’s remuneration committee will now meet to decide how the bonus pot is divided. The company had previously proposed a £70m bonus for Ashley, who draws no salary or other payments for his position on the board, but was thwarted by investors.
However, the firm has also been generous to its shop floor staff – last year some 2,000 of its 24,000 employees shared a bonus pot of £130m in shares after hitting “super-stretch” profit targets set in 2009. This amounted to about £75,000 each.
This time the board included a provision for Ashley to take part in its proposal for an overall bonus. The all-share payout is dependent on the retailer hitting targets that would involve more than doubling its underlying profits to £750m by 2019. The group said recently that it made more than £310m in the 2013-14 financial year, with results due later this month. Chairman Keith Hellawell said the success of Sports Direct’s employee bonus share scheme was demonstrated by the “substantial shareholder value created over the last five years”, and its continuation would help retain and motivate employees.
He added: “The resolution also recognises the substantial contribution made by Mike Ashley over many years and, as demonstrated by the previous schemes, has the potential to create a further significant increase in shareholder value.”
Ashley owns 58 per cent of the company he founded in 1982, but did not vote on the resolution.
The IoD said he should have been rewarded through a special dividend payment, which would have benefited all investors equally, and called for a change in the stock market rules to ensure large minorities cannot be ignored.