Vertu Motors is facing a shareholder revolt at its AGM next week as it plans to hand boss Robert Forrester a £200,000 bonus.
The dealer group is expected to be on the receiving end of an investor backlash as it proposes giving Forrester the payout, despite it slashing jobs and refusing to hand back furlough cash, reported the Mail on Sunday.
The bonus has been set aside for CEO Forrester after Vertu claimed £27.8m under the government’s furlough scheme and received £8.7m in business rates relief.
During the pandemic last year, the dealer group – one of the UK’s largest – cut 345 jobs.
Andrew Speke, of the High Pay Centre, told the newspaper: ‘It’s absurd for a company that has taken millions in taxpayers’ money to be awarding its CEO a six-figure bonus.’
It’s believed Vertu’s top executives had originally declined to take a bonus.
But its renumeration committee, after ‘engaging directly with several of the largest shareholders’, decided to hand out reduced bonuses after ‘significant progress’ was made by the company.
Forrester had previously told Car Dealer that the dealer group had no intention of handing back furlough cash, despite other companies, including those in the motor trade such as Marshall Motor Group, electing to.
He said the boardroom discussion on whether to repay the cash lasted ’45 seconds’.
On the publication of Vertu Motors’ results for last year on May 12, 2021, Forrester told Car Dealer: ‘The government closed down our businesses by diktat with very little warning, causing considerable disruption and dislocation and they provided financial support to offset that.
‘That was what the support was there for – to make sure we didn’t come out of it in a much weaker position than we went in.
‘We are doing exactly what the government want us to do and that’s to use that money to reinvest and create jobs and be powerful as the economy grows.’
In its financial year, which ended on February 28, Vertu Motors had received £27.8m in furlough support.
In May and April this year, it received £400,000 in furlough cash.
Forrester added: ‘The economy has gone through a massive shock.
‘Some people have made a loss, despite all the government money, and I have never quite got my mind around, because our business has performed, that I have to pay it back. It’s not something that enters my mind very often.’
Vertu Motors came sixth in our inaugural list of the Top 100 most profitable dealers in the UK, with an EBITDA profit of £40.73m on a £3.06bn turnover and a 0.6 per cent return on sales for 2019.