Unilever shareholders revolt against CEO’s €5.1 million pay packet

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Shareholders of Magnum-to-Marmite consumer goods giant Unilever have rejected the company’s pay policy, which would have handed CEO Alan Jope up to €5.1 million (£4.5 million) this year.

Shareholders representing 58% of voting shares rejected the policy, which included a €1.6 million base salary for Jope, who will retire at the end of the year, as well as a bonus of up to 225% of the base salary. That policy was unchanged from last year, but a 42% increase from the year before that.

However, the vote is advisory and, therefore, the company can still hand out the pay deal to its top executives.

Finance boss Graeme Pitkethly was set to make a base salary of €1.2 million and a bonus of up to €2.2 million.

A significant minority of shareholders, representing a 17% stake, also voted down the motion to re-elect Nils Andersen as Unilver’s chairman.

The FTSE 100 firm has faced criticism in recent months as it hikes the prices of its goods amid wide-ranging inflation. Last month, it revealed a 10.7% rise in sales for the first quarter of the year, which was almost entirely due to price rises as sales volumes were close to flat.

At the time, Jope said that Unilever had handled price rises “responsibly”.

Earlier today, London Stock Exchange CEO Julia Hoggett called for the bosses of top UK firms to be paid more, in order to keep London listings competitive with the US.

Unilever said in a statement: “While the board is pleased that all other resolutions were carried with large majorities, we are disappointed that the advisory vote on the Directors’ Remuneration Report was not passed.

“We are committed to shareholder engagement and will consult over the next few months to listen carefully to feedback and determine any next steps.

“In accordance with the UK Corporate Governance Code, we will publish a further statement detailing the outcome of our shareholder engagement in relation to the above resolution, including any actions taken as a result, within six months of the 2023 Annual General Meeting.”