London-listed gaming firms embroiled in pay revolts

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Top executives in the most successful UK-listed gaming firms have faced a backlash from their shareholders over the amount they are paid.

Playtech endured a revolt in May over the firm remuneration report which included a 78 percent pay rise for the CEO Mor Weizer for 2017.

Sixty percent of shareholders voted against the £4.2m paid to Weizer for his contributions in 2017, due to a slowdown in profit growth over the same period.

Chairman Alan Jackson, and the chairman of the remuneration committee, John Jackson, also suffered protest votes, with over a third of shareholders voting against their re-election.

Jackson said Playtech had listened to shareholders and “understand their concerns”, but pointed out that Weizer is paid considerably less than many rival firms’ CEOs.

GVC was later taken to task by shareholders, for an “excessively disproportionate” £67m pay package awarded to just two top team members. CEO Kenny Alexander received £45m in share options since 2016; chairman Lee Feldman picked up £22.5m.

Shareholder advice bodies Pirc and Glass Lewis advised investors to vote down the remunerations, saying it would make Alexander’s pay 550 times that of the lowest paid employees.

However, the awards came as part of mechanism linked to the firm’s share price. GVC stressed to shareholders that shares have dramatically increased in value under their stewardship – reaching an all time high of £10.26 at the end of May – making the increase justified, along with their own share benefits. Shareholders narrowly vote in favour of the remunerations in early June.

Ralph Topping, William Hill’s former CEO took to LinkedIn to lament today’s “chatterati and governance Stasi” which prefer to give top performers a kicking, rather than applaud them for transforming their businesses.

Mor Weizer, “one of the best managers of a scale business in the sector” was “hugely underpaid compared with others in the industry,” said Topping. “Try finding a replacement for him! He should be cherished not chastised.”

GVC meanwhile is the living example of how “enterprising people can beat much better resourced opponents.”

“These entrepreneurs have been Innovative, focused and flexible. Truth is they beat the odds against bigger, complacent and ponderous dinosaurs led by unimaginative CEOs and weak boards.”

Topping praises GVC as “highly organised”, evaluating options on data, and with “a blistering focus on goals and ruthless determination.”

“The focus is 100 percent external,” he adds. “No factionalism at GVC. No office politics at GVC. No fools nor self-servers at GVC. The interests of the organisation come first. Such success deserves great rewards. Get real, investors.”


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