INSURANCE firm Aviva must make sure chief executive Andrew Moss' successor is paid "significantly less", the former head of Greggs said, as shareholders claimed another scalp in their fight to improve performance at big companies.
Aviva announced yesterday Moss will be leaving with immediate effect. The move comes after Aviva suffered the embarrassment of losing a shareholder vote on executive pay at its annual meeting last week.
Aviva shareholder and former chief executive of Newcastle-based bakery chain Greggs, Sir Michael Darrington says the pay for executives “has got out of hand” and suspects that Moss will end up with quite a hefty severance package.
After 24 years as the head of Greggs, Sir Michael left with pay of around £900,000, including bonuses and benefits.
This however appears modest when compared with the multi-million-pound deals handed out in many banks.
Sir Michael, 69, said: “I think the pay has got out of hand for chief executives in general. I am not anti-businesses, I am a capitalist but I am anti-greed, and I think that is what we are seeing now.
“If you look at Aviva’s share prices from 10 to 12 years ago they were hovering around the £10 mark, now they’re down to £3. In the last decade they have dropped by 70% and they have done this consistently. This means the company is massively under-performing and the leadership needs sorting out.
“I’m pleased Moss has gone but I feel a bit of sympathy for the man personally because too many people like him are earning packages like that and even bigger.
“Maybe that sympathy will disappear when I hear what his severance pay will be. I think what they should do is make sure his successor is given a simpler package and less than Moss was getting.”
Moss’s departure follows that of bosses including AstraZeneca chief executive David Brennan and more than 50% of shareholder votes failed to back bookmaker William Hill’s remuneration report yesterday, including a £1.2m pay-to-stay award for chief executive Ralph Topping.
Barclays, Premier Foods and Xstrata have all suffered significant protest votes in recent weeks, while Unilever, WPP and Centrica are expected to face similar revolts at their AGMs.
Speaking from his home near Hexham, Northumberland, Sir Michael was careful to remind Aviva that it is not the firm’s money that they are dishing out but that of the share holders.
“It’s not their money they’re using,” he said. “A lot of companies do an awful lot of good by generating employment and taxation, but Aviva is not creating jobs and they’re not creating wealth except for themselves.
“Apparently Moss is going in the best interest of Aviva but I imagine people’s eyes will water when they find out how many millions he will get.”
His latest comments come just months after announcing he was preparing to set up a group of like-minded business leaders who will put pressure on big City firms to control spiraling senior wage packets.