The advertising and public relations giant’s annual report revealed yesterday that Sorrell’s total award, swollen by a £36m contribution from a controversial long-term incentive plan (LTIP) executive bonus scheme, was 44 per cent higher than in 2013. It included a basic salary of £1.15m, plus pension and other benefits of £2.2m, with short-term incentives of £3.56m, taking the total to £42.98m.
The sum is more than eight times higher than the average £5.04m paid to FTSE 100 bosses, according to the High Pay Centre think-tank.
The long-term share award comes after the scheme was scrapped in 2012 amid a shareholder revolt. However, executives are still able to participate in it based on the share purchases they made in the years prior to its replacement.
It emerged last month that Sorrell would be entitled to receive the maximum amount of shares under the LTIP after the value of the business increased £10 billion in five years.
Sir John Hood, chairman of WPP’s remuneration committee, said in the annual report that the committee expected “the primary area of focus for share owners and the broader media in 2015 to be in the single figure for Sir Martin Sorrell”.
But he said it was “largely the product of exceptional performance delivered over the past five years, driving the vesting of the 2010 long-term incentive award and the increase in your company’s share price”.
Hood also acknowledged that 18 per cent of shareholders had voted against the group’s remuneration policy at last year’s AGM and that “the overall level of support remains lower than we might hope for”.
Luke Hildyard, deputy director of the High Pay Centre, said Sorrell was being paid more than 1,000 times the level of his average employee and had “disregarded any interest in fairness or proportionality”.