Thursday 11 February 2021 10:17 am

Publisher Future given bloody nose over executive pay as profit surges

Publishing group Future has suffered an investor revolt over executive pay, even as the magazine giant shrugged off the pandemic to post a sharp rise in profit.

The board of Future, which owns titles such as Four Four Two and Country Life, has pushed through a controversial new pay scheme that could see chief executive Zillah Byng-Thorne take home £40m.

This was despite a revolt by 36 per cent of investors after several shareholder advisory firms recommended voting down the scheme.

More than a quarter of shareholders also voted against the remuneration scheme for 2020, which granted Byng-Thorne a 21 per cent base salary rise and a total pay packet of £3.7m.

The new pay policy, dubbed the “value creation plan”, will see all Future employees participate in an share reward scheme over the next three to five years as long as the company’s stock continues to rise by at least 10 per cent each year.

Byng-Thorne could make as much as £40m from the new scheme in the coming years, while chief financial officer Rachel Addison could take home £17m.

Thriving in a pandemic

Future said its pay policy was in line with shareholder interests by “incentivising and rewarding exceptional performance” during a period of continued growth for the company.

Shares in Future hit record highs at the end of last year as the company’s successful shift from print products to a digital offering continued to pay off.

In a statement following its annual general meeting yesterday, Future said its revenue grew by more than 50 per cent in 2020 to £340m, while operating profit jumped 80 per cent to £93.4m.

The figures reflected improved media performance from the publisher’s ecommerce ventures, which offset a fall in magazine revenue as a result of the pandemic.

Future added that its content was now read by one in three people in the UK and the US.

Future has also inked a £594m deal to buy price comparison website Go Compare as it looks to drive further revenue from affiliate marketing, where a publisher takes a cut of any purchase made after a customer clicks on a link.

Chairman Richard Huntingford said the company had “continued to thrive” despite the impact of Covid-19.

“Global audiences increased rapidly during the year from a mix of underlying growth in audience engagement, through new launches and acquisitions, and the increased consumption of digital content during the pandemic,” he said.