Gambling Giant GVC Rocked by Shareholder Revolt over CEO’s £18-Million Pay

GVC Holdings shareholders revolted against the pay packages for the company’s CEO Kenneth Alexander and Non-Executive Chairman Lee Feldman, among other executives, during its annual general meeting on Wednesday.

Nearly 44% of the gambling operator’s investors voted down the remuneration report they were presented with in a non-binding vote. The report indicated that Mr. Alexander collected the largest pay award of £18 million last year, which was slightly down from the £19.4 million he took home in 2016, but was still considered “excessively disproportionate” with market standards. Mr. Feldman received a nearly £9 million pay award last year, the second largest in the company’s 2017 remuneration report.

It was also understood that GVC Holdings’ CEO has been awarded more than £45 million worth of company share options since 2016, while Mr. Feldman has received £22.5 million during that period. GVC shares closed at £10.36 last night, vaulting the company to a nearly £6 billion valuation.

The gambling operator’s payment policy was met with strongly negative reactions during last year’s annual general meeting, as well. Its 2016 remuneration report drew nearly 45% of “no” votes.

A number of proxy investors had advised the gambling company’s shareholders to vote against its remuneration package ahead of its June 6 annual general meeting. According to Institutional Shareholder Services, the payments awarded to GVC executives did not match the current market standards; Glass Lewis said the pay awards were “excessively disproportionate”.

Jane Anscombe, Chairwoman of the gambling operator’s remuneration committee, said Wednesday that they were disappointed by the negative vote but acknowledged shareholder’s feedback. She went on to say that they wanted to reward appropriately and retain their successful management team, but they were ready to engage in talks with dissenting shareholders on the issue.

Mr. Alexander has been at the helm of the major gambling operators since 2007. He has navigated GVC through two acquisition deals over the past two years. The company first took over online gambling operator Digital Entertainment in early 2016, and then bought British bookmaker Ladbrokes Coral earlier this year to create an online gambling and retail betting powerhouse with footprint across multiple regulated jurisdictions.

Isola Steps Down from Renumeration Committee after Negative Vote

GVC’s most recent annual general meeting brought the news that Non-Executive Director Peter Isola would step down from the company’s remuneration committee shortly after his reappointment to the board had been confirmed. More than 43% of the operator’s investors voted against his reappointment on Wednesday.

Mr. Isola’s post at the company’s board has been questioned for quite some time as it was understood that his eponymous Gibraltar-based law firm earned €100,000 in legal fees in 2017 for advisory work it did for GVC. Following Wednesday’s negative vote, GVC’s Mr. Feldman said that they were aware of the concerns over Mr. Isola’s “perceived independence” and that they would engage in discussions with the investors that voted down his reappointment.

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