Angela Ahrendts, the chief executive of luxury fashion brand Burberry, has become the first woman to top the list of highest paid CEOs in Britain, according to a survey of the UK's largest listed companies.
Ahrendts, originally from Indiana in the US, took home a 16.9 million pound ($26.2 million) pay package last year, which included benefits, bonuses and the sale of bonus shares, research by proxy voting agency Manifest and pay consultancy MM&K revealed.
Her pay was close to 5 million pounds more than the next highest paid boss, Angus Russell, the outgoing CEO of pharmaceutical company Shire. Russell who earned 12.1 million pounds ($18.75 million) in 2012. Former boss of brewer SABMiller, Graham Mackay, was the third highest paid, with a package worth 9.7 million pounds ($15.1 million) in 2012.
The top five remuneration packages in 2012 were significantly lower than the amounts received the year before, when Barclays' boss Bob Diamond was the highest paid, receiving more than 20.9 million pounds ($32.4 million).
While individual pay for top CEOs fell, the average pay package of FTSE 100 bosses rose by 10 percent over the year to 4.5 million pounds ($6.98 million).
This increase was driven primarily by a rise in share prices, which saw the FTSE 100 gain 6 percent over 2012, reversing the losses of the previous year. The move boosted long-term incentive plans linked to shareholder returns by 40 per cent, according to Manifest and MM&K, despite basic salaries staying the same.
The impact of bond-buying progams by central banks across the world also had an impact, the report said. "We should balance our euphoria of the stock market bull run and note the $7 trillion of QE (quantitative easing): the supply of extra money and the search for yield may have fuelled the stock markets."
The research comes amid ongoing debate in Britain about remuneration packages, and their relation to company performance.
High Pay Centre, a think tank, accused CEOs "cashing in" on quantitative easing and described performance-related pay structures as "completely flawed".
"They are too easy to reach, and reward business leaders for being in the right place at the right time rather than successful, sustainable management of their company," the center's director Deborah Hargreaves said.
She added that executives have experienced pay rises way beyond the rest of the UK's workforce. "Pay for everyone else has been frozen or failed to keep up with inflation. This leads to a great sense of injustice in the workplace. It is time for company boards to look at a major overhaul of executive pay."
Last year, a so-called "shareholder spring" saw investors reject a number of executive pay packages, and resulted in the CEO of Aviva, Andrew Moss, stepping down.
The largest investor revolt occurred at the annual general meeting (AGM) of advertising giant WPP in June last year.
Almost 60 percent of shareholders voted against CEO Martin Sorrell's 6.8 million pound package for 2011, during which WPP's share price fell by 15 percent. That led the chairman of the company's compensation committee to restructure the way it pays its executives. The company's AGM this Wednesday will be watched with interest, following a 30 percent rise in WPP shares over 2012.
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