At the meeting, nearly 44% of shareholders voted against the firm’s remuneration report for 2017 and 42.6% opposed the re-election of Isola as a director. All resolutions were passed. Last year, the company saw off a similar pay revolt, when more than 45% of investors failed to support its pay policy.
Shareholders objected to the large payouts the company has awarded its chief executive, Kenneth Alexander, and the non-executive chairman, Lee Feldman. Alexander has received £45m in share options since 2016, while Feldman has picked up share options worth £22.5m, thanks to a scheme linked to the firm’s share price, which recently hit an all-time high.
Peter Isola, an expert in gaming law and regulation who joined the board as a non-executive director in 2016, stepped down after the gambling operator came under pressure from shareholders at its annual meeting in Gibraltar on Wednesday.
The chair of GVC’s remuneration committee, Jane Anscombe, said the committee was “of course disappointed” by the vote on the remuneration report.
“We acknowledge this feedback and thank those shareholders who have already spoken with us and explained their reasons for not being able to support this resolution,” she said.
“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, and we are committed to continuing this dialogue with our shareholders.”
Shareholder advisory groups had urged investors to vote against GVC’s pay awards and Institutional Shareholder Services had also advised a vote against Isola’s reappointment.
Britain’s corporate governance code states that a non-executive director’s independence could be “potentially impaired” by holding a so-called “material business relationship”.
Isola is a senior partner at the Gibraltar-based legal firm Isolas and his independence was questioned because Isolas was paid more than €300,000 (£263,000) for advisory work it carried out for GVC in 2017 and 2016.