Persimmon management in line for £600m bonus
A leading City investor has called on housebuilder Persimmon to cut back an executive pay plan that could see the management share £600m over the next five years.
The scheme is one of the largest ever at a FTSE 100 company outside banking.
The biggest beneficiary will be chief executive Jeff Fairburn, who could earn more than £100m.
Mike Fox, from Royal London Asset Management, said the payments were too high "in all circumstances".
He called on the board to show restraint in the light of the housing crisis and government support for the housebuilding industry.
When the scheme was put in place, the housing market had begun to recover from the 2008 recession. About 150 managers were given the opportunity to earn shares worth up to 10% of the company's total value, provided they hit tough targets on returning money to investors.
The company recently said it was running well ahead of those targets, and analysts say it is likely the scheme will pay out in full. Persimmon shares have more than tripled in value since the incentive plan was put in place, rising from £6.20 to about £20.
Disclosure of the size of the payments is likely to stoke the debate over executive compensation.
There has been a string of investor rebellions against pay deals this year, and in April a majority of shareholders voted against a £14m package for BP boss Bob Dudley. Shareholders cannot veto amounts paid, but do have the final say on companies' pay policies.
Persimmon's scheme has been backed by most shareholders - they have been well rewarded as the share price has risen and the company has handed back cash - but some remain vehemently opposed.
Mr Fox, head of sustainable investment at Royal London Asset Management, which voted against the deal at its inception and every year since, said it gave away too much of the company.
Other critics of the scheme say Persimmon executives are being handsomely rewarded simply for being in charge during a recovery in the housing market.
The company has defended the payouts, saying that since the scheme was put in place. Persimmon has increased the number of new homes it builds by half and invested more than £2bn in new land. Over the same period it has handed back £1bn to shareholders.
"This is a long-term plan that runs for almost a decade which is designed to drive outperformance through the housing cycle and to incentivise the management to deliver the capital return, grow the business and increase the share price," the company said.