GVC shareholders narrowly back remuneration report

5 June 2019

GVC Holdings has fended off a shareholder revolt over executive pay, with a narrow majority of shareholders backing the company’s 2018 remuneration report.

Investors holding 58.04% of the operator’s share capital voted in favour of the remuneration report, with 41.96% voting against at the company’s 2019 Annual General Meeting (AGM). The results were an improvement on the 2018 AGM, which saw 43.94% of shareholders vote against the remuneration report.

GVC remuneration committee chair Jane Anscombe said she was “naturally disappointed” with the results.

“We engaged extensively with shareholders ahead of the annual general meeting and would like to thank them for their helpful and constructive input,” Anscombe said. “We understand that some shareholders ultimately felt unable to support the remuneration report, in part due to our legacy arrangements, which going forward no longer form part of our remuneration framework. 

Going forward, Anscombe said the operator would seek shareholders’ views on the company’s remuneration policy, which is up for renewal at the company’s 2020 AGM.

GVC had come under pressure from shareholders critical of the sums paid to chief executive Kenny Alexander and chairman Lee Feldman in 2018, prompting fears of a revolt. Alexander’s £19.1m (€21.6m/$24.3m) pay packet was largely down to a £16.4m payment, awarded as part of the company’s long-term incentive plan set out following its 2016 acquisition of bwin.party.

Long-serving chairman Lee Feldman was paid £8.5m, with the vast majority coming from the legacy incentive scheme.

Late last month the chief executive, whose stewardship has transformed GVC from a minor industry player to one of the UK’s largest gambling businesses, volunteered to reduce his annual salary from £950,000 to £850,000, effective June 1.

The pair were also criticised after selling off shares in March, with Alexander selling 2.06m shares worth £13.7m and Feldman offloading 900,000 shares worth £6.0m. This saw GVC’s share price fall 14% in a day, its biggest fall in almost a decade, to its lowest since July 2016.

Alexander has since pledged not to sell off any further shares while he remains chief executive.

Feldman, meanwhile, has announced that he will step down as chairman either at or before its 2020 AGM. This, GVC noted at the time, was unrelated to the share sale and instead due to the fact that UK governance guidelines stating that chairmen should not hold their role for more than 9 years.