A pay deal proposed for the new head of gas explorer BG Group has been branded “excessive and inflammatory” by one of the UK’s leading business lobby groups.
The Institute of Directors said a £25m deal for Helge Lund would damage the reputation of UK business if approved at a shareholders’ meeting next month.
The IoD acknowledged its criticism was strong, coming from a body whose job is to promote the interests of UK firms.
BG said Mr Lund was being paid a “competitive market package”.
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Institute of Directors
Mr Lund joins BG as its new chief executive in March, having been recruited from Statoil with the award of shares worth £12m and the chance of up to another £13.5m in pay, pension and other benefits if performance targets are hit.
He established his reputation after transforming Norway’s Statoil from a national operator into a global company.
But some BG shareholders have voiced concern about the size of the annual pay package being offered by the FTSE 100 company.
The Investment Management Association, a body representing shareholders, issued a “red top” alert – a warning about potential corporate governance breaches.
Now the IoD has weighed in with criticism that the pay package “is a red rag to the enemies of the free market”.
Simon Walker, the IoD’s director general, said: “The Institute of Directors is always reluctant to criticise an individual company. However, we do have a responsibility to criticise an action that brings the whole of British business into disrepute and threatens already fragile attitudes to corporate Britain.
“For that reason we state explicitly our strong opposition to BG Group’s recommended £25m pay deal for its incoming chief executive. It is excessive, inflammatory and contrary to the principles of good corporate governance.”
He said it was especially excessive given BG’s size. Chief executives at the much-larger Royal Dutch Shell and BP have smaller pay packages.
Mr Walker added: “This pay deal would do serious damage to the reputation of British business six months ahead of a general election and at a time when the reputation of UK plc is still suffering.”
The IoD has raised eyebrows before with criticism of pay and bonus issues at Barclays and Sports Direct. But a spokesman accepted that this BG criticism was its strongest yet of a major company.
BG declined to comment specifically on the IoD’s comments. But a spokesman said: “We believe Helge Lund is the right person to lead BG Group. His proposed remuneration is competitive in the international oil and gas industry.
“The shareholder vote on Helge Lund’s pay is in line with the letter and spirit of corporate governance legislation.”