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Betting firm GVC hit by shareholder pay revolt

GVC board members have been left “disappointed” as investors revolted at the bookmaker’s annual general meeting.
Almost 44pc of shareholders voted against the soon-to-be promoted FTSE 100 company’s remuneration report in a non-binding vote. Investors also vented their anger at non-executive director Peter Isola with 43pc voting against his re-appointment to the board.
Chief executive Kenneth Alexander and non-executive chairman Lee Feldman shared the largest pay awards, taking home €30.7m (?26.9m) between them in 2017.
Competition regulators waved through GVC’s takeover of Ladbrokes Coral in March. The tie-up formed a ?5bn listed gambling giant, second only in the UK by market capitalisation to Paddy Power Betfair. Last week GVC won promotion to the FTSE 100 and will formally take its place in London's blue-chip index on June 18.
Jane Anscombe, the chairman of GVC’s remuneration committee, said she was “of course disappointed by the vote”.
However, while the committee acknowledged “feedback” from shareholders, Ms Anscombe defended the payouts. 
“We have sought to balance the views we have heard from shareholders with the clear need to appropriately reward and retain our successful management team,” she said. More than 11pc of shareholders voted against Ms Anscombe's re-election.
Influential proxy investor Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS) said prior to today's AGM that GVC’s awards were “not in line with market standards”. Other proxies such as Glass Lewis and Pirc also advised investors to vote against pay awards. Glass Lewis said Mr Alexander’s pay was “excessively disproportionate”.
At the heart of the disagreement was a general meeting convened by GVC in December 2017 at which new remuneration arrangements were approved. ISS was angered at GVC’s plans to implement historical pay arrangements for 2017 rather than those agreed at the end of last year.
Betting firm GVC hit by shareholder pay revolt

The Competition and Markets Authority gave GVC's takeover of Ladbrokes Coral the green light earlier this year
ISS also advised investors to vote against Mr Isola’s re-appointment.
Mr Isola’s eponymously-named Gibraltar law firm charged GVC €100,000 in 2017 and €209,858 in 2016. His firm has provided services to GVC for five years, ISS said. Britain’s corporate governance code stipulates a non-executive’s independence could be “potentially impaired” by holding a so-called “material business relationship”.
While ISS felt the fees paid to the law firm crossed such a boundary, GVC told ISS that it “does not regard them as sufficiently material”.
Nevertheless, GVC said Mr Isola will step down from its remuneration committee.
"The board has been made aware through communications during the voting process of shareholder concerns relating to Peter Isola's perceived independence,” said Mr Feldman.
“To address these concerns Peter will step down with immediate effect from the remuneration committee and we will engage with dissenting shareholders on this issue after we have reviewed the voting analysis."
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