GVC shareholders rage against CEO’s pay

Business News

The two bosses of Britain’s biggest high street bookmaker are cashing in on an ‘excessively disproportionate’ £67.4 million jackpot, The Mail on Sunday revealed.

Kenny Alexander, chief executive of Ladbrokes Coral owner GVC Holdings, has received share options worth £44.9 million, which have been paying out since 2016.

And chairman Lee Feldman has received £22.5 million of options under the same controversial scheme, which was introduced after GVC’s £1 .1 billion takeover of online betting firm Bwin.party.

The enormous payouts are linked to GVC’s share price, which on Friday hit a record high of more than £10. They are being paid in nine instalments, which means they have so far passed under the radar of most City observers.

Options maturing in 2017 took Alexander’s total pay to £18 million last year – more than 550 times the average GVC employee’s salary. Feldman took home £8.8 million, including a bonus of nearly £1 million.

The enormous payouts have yet to attract the same outcry as the outrageous bonuses at building giant Persimmon and corporate raider Melrose.

The payday at GVC is particularly galling for investors because the FTSE 250 firm recently complained to the Government that the crackdown on addictive betting machines would hit its profits.

GVC, which owns more than 3,500 betting shops after buying Ladbrokes Coral in March, begged Culture Secretary Matt Hancock not to ‘sacrifice bookmakers’ by slashing the sum punters can bet on fixed-odds betting terminals. Such machines have been described as the crack cocaine of gambling, leading the Government to cut the size of the maximum stake from £100 to £2 this month.

Luke Hildyard, director of campaign group The High Pay Centre, said of the bonuses: ‘Payments one tenth or even one hundredth of this size would still be an extraordinary windfall in most people’s eyes and more than enough to reward or incentivise anyone.’

He added that GVC’s lobbying of the Government should be ‘taken with a pinch of salt’, adding: ‘It’s hard to argue that a chief executive who is paid around 550 times as much as their average worker is concerned about anything other than lining their own pockets.’

Pirc and Glass Lewis, two leading firms that advise shareholders on how to vote, branded the incentives ‘excessive’. They urged shareholders to vote against GVC’s pay report at the company’s shareholder meeting on Wednesday week, which will be held in a suite of luxury apartments in Gibraltar.

Glass Lewis, which described the awards as ‘exceptionally disproportionate’, said it was concerned that there was no cap on such incentives.

Last year, 43 per cent of GVC shareholders rejected the firm’s pay report. This put GVC on Prime Minister Theresa May’s ‘list of shame’ for companies where 20 per cent of investors lodge a protest vote at excessive executive pay.

But shareholders gave their unanimous support to GVC’s £3.2 billion takeover of Ladbrokes Coral, which created one of the world’s largest listed sports betting companies, with brands including Foxy Bingo, Sportingbet and PartyCasino.

Andy Hornby, the boss of HBOS at the time the mortgage bank imploded, occupied a senior position at Ladbrokes Coral at the time of the takeover and now has a high-level job at GVC.

He owned Ladbrokes shares worth about £10 million at the time of the deal but his pay is undisclosed because he does not have a seat on the board.