Premier Investments chairman Solomon Lew has hit back at shareholders who voted against executive pay and served a “first strike” on the board.
Mr Lew was quick to respond to more than 48 per cent of shareholders who voted against executive remuneration at the retail investment group’s annual general meeting on Friday.
Chief executive Mark McInnes received more than $10 million last financial year.
The directors, which include Mr McInnes, received fees from a directors fee pool of $1.5 million. Mr Lew declined to accept a fee.
Mr Lew said it was unclear how the dissenting shareholders’ vote could be justified, given the company’s performance.
Premier had a 29 per cent rise in full-year net profit to $137.8 million.
“Where management teams deliver outstanding results, they should be rewarded for doing so,” he said.
Mr Lew said Mr McInnes and the board delivered record results in each of the previous nine years.
Premier Investments’ retail chains include Jay Jays, Just Jeans, Peter Alexander and Smiggle.
Mr Lew claimed proxy advisers influenced the dissenting vote.
A major shareholder, Mr Lew chose not to vote on the pay deal. He said had he done so, a strike would not have been recorded.
The shareholders’ vote does not stop the payments but puts pressure on the directors to retain their positions at the next meeting.
Under the `two strikes’ rule, if more than 25 per cent of shareholders vote against two consecutive remuneration reports, it triggers a board spill.
Mr Lew was re-elected as a director, as were Henry Lanzer and Michael McLeod.
While some shareholders questioned Mr Lew’s outspoken nature, Premier’s deputy chairman David Crean cited the overwhelming result.
“Many retail companies in Australia would love to have Mr Lew as chairman and he’s just received over 99 per cent of shareholder votes,” Mr Crean said.
Mr Lew this year called on shopping centres to reduce rents for retailers during the height of the pandemic and blasted the performance of department store chain Myer.
Premier, which also trades in Asia and Europe, reported online sales rose by 70 per cent for the first 18 weeks of its financial year.
Mr Lew, who gave the only address to shareholders, gave little information on current trading conditions and outlook.