Morrisons boss to pocket £1.7m bonus despite majority vote against

Bradford-headquartered supermarket chain Morrisons has suffered one of the biggest shareholder revolts on record over plans to pay bonuses to bosses.

More than 70% of shareholder votes were cast against the proposals, which include giving chief executive David Potts a maximum £1.7m bonus despite a fall in profits as profits fall at the supermarket.

The shareholder vote is non-binding, and Morrisons said it would contact investors to again argue in favour of the pay awards.

Morrisons said it was disappointed by the result of the vote, which was confirmed at its annual shareholder meeting in Bradford.

In a statement, the business said: “In these circumstances, the remuneration committee believed it was appropriate to apply some discretion to the remuneration of the senior executives.

“It is a matter of sincere regret to the committee that it clearly has not been able to convince a majority of shareholders – or the proxy voting agencies – that this was the right course of action.

“The committee looks forward to re-engaging with shareholders, listening to their views, and once again making the case for why discretion was used in a genuinely exceptional year which produced a genuinely exceptional performance from the executive leadership.”

David Potts

Potts received his bonus despite profits falling £165m last year, from £435m the previous year.

He had a total pay package in the year to 31 January worth up to £4.2m, including the bonus.

The investor revolt comes a year after more than a third of investors voted against Morrisons’ pay policy for 2019-20, amid concerns over its generous pension deals for Potts and chief operating officer Trevor Strain.

Morrisons saw profits fall 50% as a result of Covid-19 after repaying £230m of Government business rates relief. Despite this the supermarket has since provided a market update predicting two strong years of growth for the business.

In assessing pay and bonuses, Morrisons said its remuneration committee felt management should not lose out because of the costs of the COVID-19 crisis.

And it emphasised that Potts had waived a basic salary increase for a sixth consecutive year.