// WHSmith has been hit by a shareholder revolt over plans to pay a £550,000 bonus to CEO Carl Cowling
// The company took £40m in business rates relief and £11m in payments through the furlough scheme
WHSmith is facing a shareholder revolt after plans to pay a £550,000 bonus to its chief executive Carl Cowling.
Over 45% of the retailer’s investors either voted against or withheld their votes when asked to back its remuneration report.
The company took £40 million in business rates relief and £11 million in payments through the furlough scheme in the year to September 2021.
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It also pocketed £20 million in business rates relief the previous year.
Ahead of yesterday’s vote, Cowling, who has led the business since November 2019, was set to receive a bonus of £550,000 – the same as his annual salary in the year to September 2021 – plus pension payments worth £85,000.
Cowling’s pay will rise to £600,000 from April, with the potential to earn bonuses worth up to £960,000.
WHSmith said it had no plans to alter the bonus to Cowling despite the outcome of yesterday’s shareholder vote.
“Despite being among the businesses hardest hit by the pandemic, WHSmith has emerged in a strong position and anticipates a return to profit in 2022,” WHSmith said.
“This is as a result of the hard work of all our people, led by our executive directors.
“The remuneration arrangements published in our annual report and accounts are consistent with the remuneration policy which over 98% of shareholders supported in 2019 and come alongside the award of bonuses to approximately 1750 colleagues across our stores and head office to recognise their exceptional efforts through the pandemic.”