Europe needs swagger

WPP’s Martin Sorrell: Why I was paid $99 million in 2015

I make no apologies for success: WPP CEO
I make no apologies for success: WPP CEO

Martin Sorrell, the boss of WPP, has defended his large pay package, telling CNBC that the success of the advertising and PR giant is linked to how much money he takes home.

In March 2016, WPP revealed Sorrell received a share award worth £63 million for 2015. His base salary is £1.15 million and he received benefits such as pensions and other incentive rewards, according to an annual report on WPP's website.

This would make his total pay package for last year worth around £70 million ($99 million). The exact figure will be detailed in WPP's next annual report, which will likely be out on April 29.

Sorrell joined WPP in 1986 as a director and became chief executive in that year. He told CNBC on Monday that the company has grown in size since he started and this has been reflected in his pay package.

"Over that 31 years, we've gone from £1 million capitalization to £21 billion… I make no apologies for the success of that business…over that period of time I've not sold any shares," Sorrell said in a CNBC TV interview.

He highlighted the FTSE 100-listed company's steady growth in share price. Shares listed on the London Stock Exchange have appreciated from around £6 in 2011 to over £16 today.

"The problem is that we have been successful. If that is bad news, okay it's bad news, but we can easily deal with that by not being successful," Sorrell told CNBC.

The new normal is slow growth: WPP CEO
The new normal is slow growth: WPP CEO

The advertising boss's comments came amid renewed protests from shareholders at some of the world's largest companies over executive pay. Last week, BP shareholders rejected a pay package of almost £14 million for the oil giant's chief executive Bob Dudley. On the same day, shareholders of Smith and Nephew voted against the remuneration package for the medical equipment maker's executives.

Sorrell's pay package comes under a WPP incentive scheme called Leap, which began in 2010. The program required executives to pledge shares, which are matched depending on how the company performed versus competitors over a five-year period. Sorrell is expected to receive the maximum award of five shares for every one that he has put in for 2015.

WPP's share price has roughly doubled during this five-year period, which has contributed to the rise of Sorrell's remuneration.

"I think a critical part of it is the pay for performance and again, I don't like the word pay, because our plans…historically involve the investment of cash, not just committing stock, in these five year plans, I think that's critical," Sorrell told CNBC.

In 2013, the advertising group replaced Leap with a new scheme called the executive performance share plan, which essentially caps Sorrell's pay at around £20 million, based on his current salary.

WPP reported record revenues in 2015, up 6.1 percent year-on-year at £12.2 billion.

Sorrell's pay package for 2015 is the second highest on record for a FTSE 100 CEO, behind the £92 million in shares and cash paid to former Reckitt Benckiser boss Bart Becht in 2009, according to the FT.

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