William Hill gives boss Topping £1.2m shares 'sweetener'

BOOKMAKER William Hill, which last month saw a major shareholder revolt over executive pay, has awarded its chief executive shares worth £1.2 million as a one-off sweetener to ensure he stays at the group.

Glaswegian Ralph Topping, 59, has signed up to stay with the company until the end of 2013, when the shares will vest.

The chief executive, who joined William Hill as a Saturday worker in Glasgow in 1970, will also get a pay increase from 491,250 to 600,000 a year but his bonus for hitting key targets will be reduced to 80 per cent of his salary, down from 90 per cent.

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Gareth Davis, William Hill's chairman, said keeping Topping was crucial for success of the company as it looks to expand internationally and that the pay changes were intended to move his salary package from "below competitive market levels" as the company looks to expand globally.

"Ralph's extensive experience over his 40 years in the business and his performance since being appointed chief executive demonstrated to the board that he is uniquely qualified to lead William Hill through this critical transition period."

William Hill revealed ambitious growth plans when it set up William Hill Online and has also announced a number of acquisitions in the US as part of its international expansion plans.

Topping said: "There are further opportunities ahead of us and I am pleased to have been asked to continue leading the business at this crucial time."

A third of shareholders voting at the company's annual meeting in May either opposed pay awards to directors or withheld their votes in one of the biggest protests of its kind.

Topping had pocketed 1.65m in pay, benefits and bonuses last year, an increase of 56 per cent on 2009. The firm saw a 7 per cent rise in operating profits but its shares fell 8 per cent over the course of the year.