Sorrell collects £60m as 15 WPP executives land mega-share awards

Martin Sorrell
Martin Sorrell

Sir Martin Sorrell will collect a share award worth more than £60 million this week and up to 14 other senior WPP executives are in line for multi-million pound awards.

The WPP chief executive invested 711,000 shares in a bonus scheme, called LEAP, in 2011 on the basis that if the company hit performance targets, he could get a maximum of up to five times as many shares by 2016.

Sorrell is believed to have earned a "maximum match" and WPP is expected to confirm the award of about 3.55 million shares to the WPP boss in a statement to the stock market on Wednesday.

Paul Richardson, WPP's group finance director, and Mark Read, the global chief executive of Wunderman, are two of the other executives who have benefitted from the LEAP scheme. 

WPP has not disclosed the identities of the other 12 participants in LEAP but they are likely to include the heads of many of its global ad agency and media agency networks. 

The company announced record profits ten days ago and the awards have soared further in value because the share price has doubled to £15 since 2011.

Sorrell’s estimated £60 million award will push his total remuneration for 2015 to close to £70 million, including his £1.1 million base salary and short-term bonus and benefits, making Sorrell the best-paid boss in the FTSE-100 for a second year.

However, the company will not confirm those details until the annual report is published next month. He earned £43 million in 2014 as an earlier LEAP award paid out handsomely.

Under LEAP rules, WPP’s compensation committee invited 15 participants to pledge a certain number of shares that the committee deemed appropriate that year.

Sorrell’s latest award was particularly large because in 2011 the compensation committee "invited" him to pledge a record number of shares.

It is understood that he pledged a lower number of shares in 2012, which means next year’s award is likely to be smaller in size.

LEAP is a controversial scheme that was discontinued in 2012 after 60 per cent of shareholders voted against the remuneration report because they feared it could mean Sorrell and other executives would get paid too much. However, "legacy" LEAP awards will continue to pay out until the end of the five-year term in 2017.

WPP maintained the LEAP award was in the interests of shareholders because Sorrell and other executives invested their own money and would only benefit if the company prospered.

Last year’s annual report explained: "The legacy LEAP programme was a co-investment plan, requiring executives to pledge shares, which would be matched to the extent that WPP’s total shareholder return (share price growth plus reinvestment of dividends) out-performed competitors over a five-year investment and performance period."

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