Under-fire Sainsbury’s boss Mike Coupe was lambasted by shareholders at a tense investor showdown earlier today, as the supermarket chain faced a set of tough questions following a torrid 12 months.
Disgruntled shareholders slammed Coupe and the board at the firm’s annual general meeting (AGM) over its falling share price, which has plunged by almost 40 per cent in the last year.
Yet despite a series of scathing comments at the two-hour meeting, shareholders overwhelmingly voted through the firm’s resolutions, which included a £251,000 pay rise to £3.9m for Coupe, in spite of two advisory firms telling investors to oppose remuneration changes.
Criticism over the chief executive’s pay package has been mounting since the Sainsbury’s plan for a merger with rival Asda was blocked by Britain’s competition watchdog in April, throwing the firm’s future direction into uncertainty.
“It certainly keeps me on my toes” Coupe told City A.M., after fielding questions that also ranged from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to cruelty against pigs.
Among the outraged shareholders at the meeting was John Farmer, a regular critic and Sainsbury’s AGM attendee, who told chairman Martin Scicluna to “get rid of this useless chief executive”.
Another shareholder asked whether Coupe had any other song he was singing today – a reference to Coupe’s “we’re in the money” mishap caught on camera last year – which was met with chuckles before he added “stop laughing, you should all be ashamed of yourselves”.
But Scicluna – who stood up for almost the entire showing – was resilient in his defence of Coupe, saying: “He’s the right guy to be serving us right now”.
The heated meeting came a day after Sainsbury’s posted its third consecutive fall in quarterly sales, as it battles weaker consumer spending and an intensely competitive grocery market.
After today’s meeting one 82-year old long-time shareholder, who wished to remain anonymous, added: “Coupe got through today, but who knows how long he’ll last? Watch this space”.