Whitbread boss Alison Brittain asks company to scrap controversial £729,000 bonus deferred by board last year
Whitbread boss Alison Brittain has asked the company to scrap a controversial £729,000 bonus deferred by the board last year.
Brittain was due to receive the bonus this summer. However, The Mail on Sunday understands that she has relinquished the award – in a move that will be welcomed by campaigners.
Last year, the FTSE100 firm faced criticism over the bonus from shareholders and politicians because the company had claimed hundreds of millions of pounds in support from the taxpayer.
Controversial: Whitbread, which owns the Premier Inn hotel chain, has claimed about £370million from taxpayers in furlough cash and business rates relief
The High Pay Centre has described taking bonuses while drawing taxpayer support as ‘a line that no company should cross’.
The bonus was due to be made on top of her £877,000 basic pay. A deferred award would have been paid alongside this year’s salary of £895,000.
Her company, which owns the Premier Inn hotel chain, has claimed about £370million from taxpayers in furlough cash and business rates relief. None of it has been paid back.
Brittain is understood to have told Whitbread’s remuneration committee that she will give up the bonus. Her decision is set to be ratified by the board as soon as this month.
She is said to have recognised that it would be inappropriate to receive the award after the leisure giant had claimed such a huge amount of public money.
Finance chief Nicholas Cadbury was also in line to collect a bonus – amounting to £492,000 – deferred from last year. He has followed suit and given up the award.
However, Brittain could still receive her bonus for the most recent financial year. Whitbread also leaned on the taxpayer during that period.
Legal & General Investment Management, which is one of Whitbread’s biggest investors and the City’s largest fund manager, said the bonus ‘should not have been awarded and deferred’ in the first place.
Senior Global ESG manager at Legal & General Angeli Benham said: ‘LGIM’s policy is very clear. If a company has faced liquidity issues due to Covid-19 to an extent that they had to suspend dividends, accept Government support in the form of loans, suspension of rates or furlough and they reduced their headcount, then bonuses to executives should not have been paid.
‘They accepted shareholder and Government help and laid off 1,500 employees, the bonus should not have been awarded and deferred.’
Brittain’s decision came as the group began a search for her replacement.