Departing Unilever boss Paul Polman yesterday faced an embarrassing fightback over his multi-million pound pay deal.
More than a third of shareholders voted against new rules for how executives were rewarded each year.
Polman, 61, who earned £10.3million this year, an increase of nearly 40 per cent from 2016, was the focus of anger from smaller shareholders over suggestions he could be paid even more.
Unilever boss Paul Polman earned £10.3m this year, an increase of nearly 40 per cent from 2016. He faced anger from shareholders yesterday over suggestions he could be paid more
He and finance chief Graeme Pitkethly will have their salary, benefits and allowance lumped into a single ‘fixed pay’ figure, something advisory services have warned could lead to bigger annual increases than previously.
The changes would see Polman’s fixed pay – including his salary, allowance and pension – rise by 5 per cent to £1.45million.
His maximum potential bonuses would rise by 21 per cent, to £11.2million.
Tea Brews On Twitter
Unilever says a trendy green tea it sells was inspired by posts on popular websites.
It noticed matcha, made from ground tea leaves, was growing in popularity in 2016, thanks to a 42 per cent rise in people posting on social media sites such as Twitter to say they were making the superdrink at home.
It first developed the tea for Lipton but now has its own Pure Leaf brand.
The tea is thought to have been used by Buddhist monks to focus while meditating.
Unilever, which makes Marmite and Dove, insists the change will make its pay policies simpler and mean executives have more ‘skin in the game’, because they will require Polman and Pitkethly to buy more shares in the company to get the maximum bonuses available.
But in a vote on the new policy yesterday, 35.8 per cent of shareholders rebelled. Nearly 5 per cent didn’t vote.
Chairman Marijn Dekkers had earlier fought off claims that the policy would lead to giant payouts and urged the investors to back it.
At London’s Southbank Centre, Polman, for whom a successor is being sought as he is set to leave his role, talked about the importance of its mission to give back to society as well as to investors.
Unilever wants to become more environmentally friendly, and is aiming to employ equal numbers of men and women in senior roles and back aid programmes in developing countries.
One investor quoted an article from 2015 where Polman was quoted as saying he was embarrassed by his salary and that he would work for free.
Prompting laughter, he asked: ‘If that is accurate, would he do so and save us a lot of money?’
Another shareholder of 35 years, Geoffrey Alan, complained about the company’s growing debts and added: ‘While I do congratulate the company for an excellent long-term performance, I am concerned by the changes in this financial year.’
The new pay deal has been opposed by the investor advisory service ISS, which said it could lead to bigger fixed pay than the current regime.
But Dekkers said: ‘The new policy is far more demanding than before, and firmly aligned with our strategy and with long-term value creation. We have a long history of applying high standards of corporate governance.’