Two proposed pay increases for top executives at Flutter Entertainment shouldn’t happen. That’s the viewpoint of advisors, who are urging the gaming company’s shareholders to reject the lofty increases.
Flutter Entertainment’s stock is off. In March, it was 40% lower than where it was a year earlier and it has lost 24% this year alone. That didn’t stop the global gaming company, which just authorized $18.2 million in bonus money for employees, from deciding to reward its top executives with double-digit pay increases, though.
Flutter CEO Peter Jackson and CFO Jonathan Hill received their new rates last month, but the decision still isn’t final. Two proxy shareholder advisory firms believe the move is a step in the wrong direction and want shareholders to intervene.
40% More in Two Years
Last year, Jackson and Hill received pay increases of 17.5%. That was fair – the company was experiencing tremendous growth through acquisitions. Its stock price, after a split in April 2020, was double its prior-year value.
This year, the two top executives are getting, respectively, increases of 26% and 20%. However, the increases come as the company’s market position and performance have fallen. This is counterintuitive, according to advisory firms Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS) and Glass Lewis.
We have reservations regarding the scale of these increases, given the significant (17.5 percent) increases awarded to the same executives in June 2020,” states Glass Lewis.
ISS doesn’t believe Flutter can appropriately justify the increase, “especially against the backdrop of a fall in share price,” it asserts. It believes the company, which just lost a bid to take over the UK National Lottery, is creating a pay and incentive package “higher than UK shareholders typically expect” and more in line with those of US executives.
Glass Lewis isn’t a big fan of fixed pay increases. It believes they don’t provide the necessary incentives to keep executives pushing their companies forward. The firm explains that it allows the recipients to have a crutch when operations go sideways.
Both firms suggest shareholders intervene. The increases have been in place since last month, but they’re not final. Flutter will hold its annual general meeting on April 28, at which time shareholders can reject the increases.
Increases “Necessary” For Business
Under the new scheme, Jackson will earn a basic salary of €1.4 million (US$1.51 million) and Hill, €857,642 (US$928,826). Flutter believes the increases are “necessary” to keep the company competitive.
It adds that the salaries are in line with other UK-listed companies of the same size and adequately reflect the company’s growth in recent years. It justified the increases in its annual report last month by stating that the total remuneration packages are “representative of Flutter’s business context.”
Jackson’s pay package at Flutter last year totaled just over €10 million (US$$10.82 million). Much of that came from a long-term incentive plan (LTIP) in place for him and other top executives. This year, however, Flutter decided against a new LTIP in light of the company’s falling share price.
Instead of offering an incentive-driven plan, though, it’s giving the executives guaranteed salaries. The board signed off on the measure, although it leaves investment firms and shareholders scratching their heads.
Jackson is earning 40% more in base pay than he was two years ago, even as Flutter’s stock dropped 40% in the past year. At this point, shareholders exclusively control what happens next.
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