Interserve’s boss faces shareholder revolt on pay
Protest comes amid a wider backlash against bumper wages handed to company executives
SHAREHOLDERS are being called on to vote against Interserve’s chief executive Debbie White’s pay packet at its annual general meeting (AGM) this week over concerns about her generous bonus.
Ms White was paid £525,900 in the four months between her joining the company in September and the end of last year, comprising a salary of £216,667 and a bonus of £270,089 plus other contributions.
But shareholder advisory firm Glass Lewis said it had concerns about the pay deal, especially her bonus which is 125pc of her salary, the most she could have earned under Interserve’s remuneration scheme.
The bonus was dependent on Ms White meeting certain criteria including delivering a recovery plan to reorganise the business and instilling confidence in Interserve’s “key stakeholders”. The company’s annual report suggests she met all of these criteria in full, meaning she was eligible for the maximum payout.
A shareholder backlash would be the latest bump in the road for Interserve in what has proven to be a rocky year.
It narrowly avoided breaching its loan covenants in December after years of chasing narrow margins on contracts left it in dire financial straits.
But the company signed off on a refinancing deal earlier this year that gave it £196.6m in cash loans and £94.5m in bond facilities, signalling something of a reprieve.
The money was provided by a group of lenders led by Emerald Investment, the family office of Scottish millionaire investor Alan Mcintosh. The Sunday
Telegraph revealed Mr Mcintosh’s involvement in the deal in March.
Shareholders will meet on Tuesday for the company’s AGM where they will vote on the remuneration report, although the vote is non-binding.
The concern around Ms White’s pay comes amid a wider pushback from shareholders over excessive director remuneration. Last week, the chairman of house-builder Persimmon’s remuneration committee told the business, energy and industrial strategy select committee that the company was considering paying bonuses to all staff as it struggles to defuse anger over its chief executive’s £109m payout.
Marion Sears said this could allow other staff to benefit from the company’s success, a comment echoed by her counterpart at engineering group Weir.
Ms White was brought in to Interserve following the departure of previous boss Adrian Ringrose who stepped down amid punishing profit warnings and spiralling costs.
The company builds prisons and hospitals, cleans railway stations and oversees events including the Edinburgh Military Tattoo.
It has been particularly hit in recent years by huge extra costs associated with an energy-from-waste contract which could cost the business as much as £200m to put right.
Ms White has implemented a number of contract review processes which she hopes will mean the company avoids similar situations in the future.
Debbie White was paid £525,900 in the four months between her joining Interserve and the end of last year