Trinity Mirror investors square up to boss's Sly £1m package

The Mirror owner's long-suffering shareholders are biting back over the 'untenable' size of CEO Sly Bailey's pay deal. And they may have a point...

by Andrew Saunders
Last Updated: 06 Nov 2012
The palaver over executive pay and rewards for failure seems to have another potential victim in its sights - the boss of Britain’s largest newspaper publisher, Trinity Mirror. In the nine years since she took over as CEO of the group - whose assets include The Mirror, Sunday Mirror and 240 odd regional papers - she has earned a total - including pension, benefits, bonuses and shares - of around £12.4m. Over the same period of time the firm has lost 90% of its value, shares plummeting from around 390p in 2003 to 46p today. The company has plummeted out of the FTSE 100 to reside in the small cap index, and to cap it all it no longer even pays a dividend.
 
Although her basic salary has been frozen since 2008 at £750,000, bonuses, shares and pension contributions took her total pay up to almost £1.7m in 2010. Results for last year are yet to be announced but a figure of around £1m is expected.
 
TM’s shareholders are now getting increasingly hot under the collar over what many see as Bailey’s performance inversely related pay. One top 10 investor described her package as ‘just not tenable’ before going onto add rather ominously that ‘It is premature to say that we are demanding her head but we are looking at it all very keenly.’  Another added in similar veiled vein, ‘Sly hasn’t got many supporters now, not when she has lost so much and is so well paid.’
 
But why the sudden burst of activity now? It doesn’t bode well for the Government’s faith in the power of shareholder activism to rein in excessive pay if it takes nearly a decade for them to creak into action. Well, partly it’s the tenor of the times and the paucity of rewards on offer for shareholders everywhere. And partly it’s because TM investors are taking advantage of the arrival of new chairman David Grigson to deliver a few home truths. The message they want him to convey to Bailey seems pretty unvarnished from where we are standing.
 
The shareholder pressure came only a day after the announcement that TM was making another 75 journalists redundant, too, so Bailey doesn’t have too many reasons to be cheerful at the moment. Although she has managed to stay afloat and pretty much unscathed in the sharkpool of the phone hacking enquiries - so far at least.
 
Of course it has been a torrid decade in the newspaper business and TM is not alone in having been battered by the rise of new technologies and customer behaviour. But now the group’s shareholders have written their own front-page banner headline for the CEO, things could get pretty heated. Trinity Mirror’s AGM is in May, and MT reckons it will be quite a spectacle…

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