“Tone deaf” WHSmith scraps CEO Carl Cowling’s £5m share windfall

WHSmith Carl Cowling grant investor shares windfall covid-19 pandemic lockdown
One investor accused WHSmith of being "tone deaf" to the current attitude around executive salaries
// WHSmith ditches plans to give CEO Carl Cowling a £5m share windfall after investor backlash
// The plan was to aggregate three years-worth of LTIP awards into a single grant for Cowling

WHSmith has reportedly scrapped its chief executive Carl Cowling’s £5 million share windfall after City backlash.

The retailer told its investors that it wanted to grant Cowling shares worth more than £4.5 million, Sky News reported.

It has now ditched all plans to give its boss a share windfall following a backlash from furious investors.


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The high street and travel retail group had begun consulting with leading shareholders about a proposal that would have given Cowling long-term incentive shares worth roughly nine times his £525,000 basic salary.

The plan was to aggregate three years-worth of LTIP awards into a single grant.

However, investors expressed their anger because the retailer has furloughed thousands of staff, made 1500 employees redundant and raised £165 million from shareholders to strengthen its balance sheet and endure the Covid-19 pandemic.

WHSmith said that over the past two months, it has been consulting with shareholders over a proposed new remuneration policy.

While most shareholders have been supportive, according to WHSmith, others were not in agreement.

One investor accused WHSmith of being “tone deaf” to the current attitude around executive salaries.

Hundreds of WHSmith stores are remaining open during the four-week lockdown in England, which came into practice on November 5.

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