JD Sports heads for heated AGM as investors protest GBP4.3mln executive bonus

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JD Sports Fashion PLC (LON:JD.) will join the ‘heated AGM’ amid criticism of bonuses to top executives as the retailer benefited from taxpayer money during the pandemic.


Advisory groups Glass Lewis and Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS) recommended investors to vote against the remuneration policy at Thursday’s meeting.


READ: JD Sports to acquire specialist sports retailer in Spain for EUR140.4mln


It has been deemed inappropriate considering the FTSE 100 accessed GBP61mln through the furlough scheme and an estimated GBP38mln as part of the business rates relief. It also received a further GBP25mln in wage support outside the UK.


ISS is also pushing against the re-election of executive chairman Peter Cowgill, given that his ongoing dual role of chief executive and board chair continues to go against the UK corporate governance code.


And as chair of the nomination committee, it also believes Cowgill should be held responsible for JD missing the Hampton-Alexander target of at least 33% of board members being women.


What’s more, it also paid dividends to shareholders worth GBP16.7mln.


Cowgill, who has been awarded a GBP4.3mln bonus, said earlier this month most of it related to work done before January 2019.


Back then, shareholders had approved to pay him a special bonus in four instalments of GBP1.5mln to reflect his lack of involvement in the long-term incentive scheme.


The third payment was delayed to January this year, bringing the special bonus element in this year’s report to GBP3mln.


Cowgill, who reduced his salary by 75% for three months during the pandemic, had also been in line for an annual bonus opportunity equivalent to 200% of his salary or GBP1.7mln.


However, the remuneration committee reduced this to 150%, or GBP1.3mln, to leave Cowgill with a total pay package worth GBP5mln for 2020/21.


Cowgill told the BBC he had only received one payout in eight years, when the group’s profits went from GBP82mln to GBP420mln.


He said shareholders should approve the remuneration policy because “the company has progressed, it’s provided increasing levels of employment throughout”.


He also said JD Sports shouldn’t pay back furlough money like rivals Primark and ASOS did, because the former benefitted from strong food sales and the latter doesn’t have the same overheads.


Shares rose 1% to 924.6p on Wednesday afternoon.

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