A significant minority of M&S shareholders protested a £1.6m bonus payout to former top boss Steve Rowe at the supermarket’s AGM on Tuesday.
After the digitally-held meeting, the grocer said all its resolutions had been approved “with substantial support,” with some 70 per cent of votes in support of its remuneration policy.
Some critics had protested the payout to Rowe, as it was more than his annual wage packet.
Just over 29 per cent of shareholders voted against the bonus, while some 22 other resolutions passed with resounding majorities.
M&S had cancelled its dividend last spring in order to shore up cash and did not provide a guarantee on when it would be reintroduced.
In a statement on Tuesday afternoon, M&S said the board “strongly believes” has acted in shareholders’ interests in relation to Rowe’s award.
The retailer defended its pay out to Rowe, who has spent 37 years with the brand, including six overseeing the company.
“He worked full time and with total energy as chief executive officer well beyond the end of the financial year,” M&S stated.
All “eligible colleagues” had received a bonus this year, marking the first time since 2017, and the grocer said it would have been “wholly wrong” to exclude Rowe from this.
The grocer added: “To have denied him the bonus because he helped support an orderly and organised succession that was announced just three weeks before the year-end would have shown bad faith to a great servant of the business and would not have been in any way in shareholders’ interests.”
The remuneration committee was keen to “engage further with shareholders to understand the concerns expressed by the minority,” with an update expected within six months, M&S added.
Tuesday marked Rowe’s official last day in the job, handing the reins to a new leadership team of Stuart Machin, Katie Bickerstaffe and Eoin Tonge.
In opening remarks, chair Archie Norman said M&S wanted the business “to be unrecognisably different in the years ahead.”
“Our ambition is to make M&S a growth business. We’re not here to manage decline. We’re not here to preserve some sort of British institution,” he added.
Shares dipped one per cent on Tuesday afternoon, following the AGM.
Rival Sainsbury’s is also braced for a shareholder revolt on Thursday, at a meeting at its Holborn headquarters, over pay increases for staff.Shareholders have proposed a resolution urging the grocer to become a living wage accredited employer.