William Hill CEO forgoes pay increase and bonuses

8 April 2020

William Hill has announced the remuneration packages for chief executive Ulrik Bengtsson and new chief financial officer Matt Ashley, with Bengtsson to forgo a scheduled pay increase and a contractual bonus as the business deals with the impact of the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.

Bengtsson will receive a salary of £600,000 (€684,000/$744,000) for the year, with his annual salary increase suspended due to the effects of the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) on the business.

In March, William Hill estimated the virus would lead to a decline in earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation of between £100m and £110m in 2020, and suspended its dividend for 2019.

In addition, £30,000 will go towards a pension for Bengtsson. The operator chose to lower its maximum pension contribution rate for executive directors from 20% to 5% to bring it in line with the general workforce contribution rate.

The operator’s annual bonus and long-term incentive plan schemes, which for the chief executive can be worth up to 150% of salary and 200% of salary respectively, were cancelled for all executives and senior employees.

Bengtsson also opted to decline a Performance Share Plan award for 2020, which would have seen him awarded additional shares in the business based on hitting certain targets.

Ashley, meanwhile, received a £450,000 annual salary, prorated for the time he worked for William Hill in 2020. Ashley took on the new role and joined the William Hill executive board on 6 April, replacing Ruth Prior who in January announced that she would step down from the position.

William Hill in February revealed Adrian Marsh as Prior’s replacement, but later announced that Marsh had chosen to remain in his current position with international packaging business DS Smith due to the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak.

Like Bengtsson, Ashley will have a pension contribution of 5% of salary and his bonus and long-term incentive plan have also been cancelled.

The operator added that share awards forfeited as a result of Ashley's resignation from National Express will be compensated on a like-for-like basis. Ashley is also required to hold at least 200% of salary in shares, up from 150% which was previously required of William Hill CFOs.

Wiliam Hill said it was confident it had protected its shareholders’ interests and had not overpaid in order to bring Ashley to the role.

“We believe Matt’s appointment is important in providing stability for our business in the face of the current challenges and will serve our shareholders well,” the operator said. “We have received comments from a number of our leading shareholders welcoming Matt’s appointment, along with the timely manner in which it was made.”

The operator added that it has “topped up” the salaries of all of its furloughed employees to 100% of what they would make when working.

The remuneration packages for William Hill executives will need to be approved at the business’s Annual General Meeting on 15 May 2020.