PARIS May 31 Advertising group Publicis
won narrow shareholder support on Wednesday to pay its
veteran boss Maurice Levy 2.8 million euros ($3.1 mln) a year in
his new role as chairman.
The remuneration will make him the highest paid
non-executive chairman among French blue-chip companies.
Levy, CEO of Publicis for the past 30 years, became chairman
of the world's third-biggest advertising group on Wednesday, a
day before Arthur Sadoun formally takes over as chief executive.
Levy's pay packet is well above that of his predecessor as
chairman, Elisabeth Badinter, daughter of the company's founder,
who was on a base salary of 240,000 euros.
The world's two biggest proxy advisers, Glass Lewis and ISS,
had advised their clients to vote against the proposed
remuneration, saying it was excessive for a non-operational
French fund PhiTrust also questioned the proposed
compensation in questions sent ahead of Publicis's annual
general meeting on Wednesday.
At the meeting, however, 60.7 percent of voting shareholders
approved the remuneration, although that is a low score in such
instances in France.
Levy will be the highest paid non-executive chairman of
companies listed in France's major CAC 40 stock index, according
to Proxinvest, a French proxy firm.
Danone Chairman Franck Riboud and his counterpart
at LafargeHolcim, Wolfgang Reitzle, are the next highest
paid, with each receiving annual cash compensation of more than
1.5 million euros.
Publicis said on Wednesday that the package reflected Levy's
46 years of service for the company, the heavy workload that the
executive transition would require, and a non-competition clause
under which Publicis would have had to pay Levy 1.8 million
euros annually for three years if he had left the company.
Levy was paid 2.5 million euros in his last year as CEO.
He was one of only two chief executives in Publicis's
90-year history, and at the age of 75 will remain "very active"
in his new non-operational position, the company said.
"I am pleased (with this score)," Levy said on the sidelines
of the shareholders' meeting. "We wanted to be very transparent:
if you want me at this position, it's under these conditions."
($1 = 0.8906 euros)
(Editing by Susan Fenton)