December 20, 2012

Sportingbet investors anger over senior pay-offs

2012 was the year of the Shareholder Spring and we almost certainly saw the last one of the year on Wednesday as more than 20% of Sportingbet investors staged a rebellion over multi-million pound pay-offs for the betting companies senior executives.

The company is expected to announce as early as Friday that it has accepted a £485m takeover approach from rival William Hill and GVC Holdings.

However, Andrew McIver Sportingbet’s chief executive, and its finance director, Jim Wilkinson, will not have a bad Christmas if the company does accept as they walk away from the group with two years’ worth of salary, bonuses, pension payments and other benefits if they leave as expected following the acquisition.

The bumper two-year pay-offs contravene the UK corporate governance code and attracted the ire of one of the major shareholders, group Pirc.

At Sportingbet’s annual meeting on Wednesday, more than 20% of votes were cast against the company’s remuneration report. It was the second time Sportingbet has received controversy over executive pay and almost 14% of investors voted against its remuneration report at 2011’s annual meeting.

Mr McIver, 49, who has been chief executive of Sportingbet since 2006, could walk away with a severance package worth up to £2.4m if a maximum bonus is approved.

The betting boss also holds more than 3m Sportingbet shares, meaning he stands to bank more than £1.7m in cash and shares if William Hill’s latest offer is accepted.

The three parties have until Friday to agree a deal.

William Hill and GVC recently reduced their offer to 56.1p from 61.1p a share following weaker than expected quarterly results from Sportingbet. The majority of Sportingbet shareholders are expected to receive about 50.4p a share in cash, while the remainder will be paid in GVC shares.

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