// Next boss Lord Wolfson is facing backlash over its executive bonus after the retailer received government support during the pandemic
// Wolfson took home almost £4.4 million last year, up 50%, after being awarded an annual bonus worth 100% of his basic salary
Next is under fire over the hefty executive bonus awarded to chief executive Lord Wolfson, which saw him receive his highest level of pay since 2015, despite benefiting from government support during the pandemic.
Lord Wolfson’s, whose pay will be put to the shareholder vote on Thursday, took home almost £4.4 million last year, up 50% on the year before. His pay packet included an annual bonus worth 100% of his basic salary.
As reported by the Guardian, The Institutional Voting Information Service (IVIS) has given both firms a “red top” rating, which essentially urges shareholders to vote against chief executive pay.
- Next first quarter sales jump as it maintains profit guidance
- Next buys JoJo Maman Bébé with investment firms
- In pictures: Next opens first department store
It has raised concerns about the bonuses at a time when the retailer benefited from government support including furlough pay for workers and business rates relief.
“Shareholders will need to be satisfied that the payment of bonuses was appropriate in a year when the company again participated in the government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and there is no clear indication whether the company has or intends to repay the support received from the government,” IVIS said of Next.
It is understood Next repaid £29m of business rates relief and has also given back any further support taken when shops were reopened, according to a spokesperson.
He said: “The board is mindful of a range of external and internal factors when considering its approach to remuneration and regularly consults its shareholders on these matters.
“The business delivered a strong trading performance in 2021, following the reopening of its sites. However, in light of the Covid-19 pandemic and the receipt of significant government support, the remuneration committee felt it appropriate to reduce executive directors’ bonuses by 40%.
“During the pandemic, 2019 bonuses were voluntarily waived by directors and no bonuses at all were awarded in 2020. In addition, directors waived between 20% [and] 40% of their salaries through the pandemic for 12 months from March 2020.”
Companies are facing close scrutiny over pay at annual shareholder meetings this year after a tough period for investors who have seen dividends cancelled and share prices hit during the pandemic.