More than 70 staff at a robotics company will share a near-£100million bonus bonanza after a stunning stock market run triggered Silicon Valley-style rewards.
Merseyside-based Blue Prism – whose software automates clerical tasks for clients including the NHS, Telefonica, Coca-Cola and Npower – has been one of the best-performing shares on the London Stock Exchange in recent history.
Investors who bought £1,000 of Blue Prism shares in 2016 when it floated on Aim, London’s junior stock market, are now sitting on £24,500 just two years later. The firm is worth £1.3billion, up from less than £50million at the float.
Bonanza: Blue Prism boss Alastair Bathgate will join Britain’s rich lists
All those on the payroll in 2016 were given share options that will mature in their entirety next year. These have surged in value to almost exactly £100million. Many staff will become millionaires while others will receive six-figure sums.
Chief executive and co-founder Alastair Bathgate will be the biggest single winner. He is in line for £9.1million.
Former chief financial officer Gary Johnson had £7.4million in options from the bonus scheme, which he has been able to cash in, since he left earlier this year.
The scheme is unusual for a British company because it includes all staff. Normally executive directors are awarded share incentive packages but lower-ranking employees miss out on the huge paydays.
It is reminiscent of the pay deals seen at US tech companies which tend to dish out share options to all employees in an attempt to retain staff.
Bathgate will be able to cash in his £9.1million share options from next March, which will make him the best-paid boss on Aim.
This weekend he said: ‘Employees are the creators of this shareholder value – so it’s positive that they get the chance to share in that growth too.’
Blue Prism’s so-called ‘software robots’ can work around the clock every day of the year and complete mundane tasks such as processing expenses much faster than humans. They are not physical robots doing manual work, but computer programmes that analyse and sort data.
The company’s stock market run mirrors that of Aim-listed company Fever-Tree. The posh tonic maker’s shares have surged by a similar amount but over a longer period. Last week, Fever-Tree’s founders cashed in another £103.5million of shares.
Blue Prism’s executives have also been selling shares this year. Bathgate, 54, an accountant from Manchester who founded the firm in 2001, has already sold shares worth £20.3million since the company joined the stock exchange.
Blue Prism’s stock market run mirrors that of Aim-listed company Fever-Tree
He still has a 7 per cent stake worth £90million but avoids the trappings of success. Although he is sitting on a £120million personal fortune that should propel him into the rich lists next year, he lives in a £300,000 house he has owned since 2001.
Bathgate is a Manchester City fan who writes a wine blog called Confessions of a Wino. He celebrated the stock market float by treating himself to a new watch and refurbishing his house.
Chairman Jason Kingdon sold shares last month for £8.8million. His remaining 8.6 per cent stake is worth £110million.
The company’s headquarters stands opposite a row of modest terraced houses in Newton-le-Willows, a small town near St Helens, Merseyside.
The firm recently opened small offices in locations around the world including the US, Paris, India and Tokyo, but it still has only about 200 employees.
Blue Prism has a long way to go to replicate Aim’s biggest success story – the online fashion store ASOS. Anyone investing £1,000 in ASOS shares in 2003 would now have a staggering £220,000.