Unsportsmanlike conduct at JD Group

JD Group shareholders have staged a revolt over executive pay.

JD Group, which owns retailer JD Sports, has become the latest big company to receive a “bloody nose” over executive pay, say Sarah Butler and Jillian Ambrose in The Guardian. 

Last week it faced a revolt because executive chairman Peter Cowgill “was paid almost £6m in bonuses since February last year, despite the company accepting more than £100m in government support”. 

While shareholders ultimately approved the package, thanks to majority stakeholder Pentland Group, they did so with “lower levels of support” than usual. Smaller investors also voiced their anger by forcing out Andrew Leslie, the chair of the remuneration committee. Both investors and the public have “good reason” to be angry, says Ben Marlow in The Daily Telegraph. 

Cowgill has steered the company through a difficult period, with online sales “booming during lockdown”, but this “weakens the case for accepting state handouts”. And it’s not the first time JD Group has behaved badly. It refused to pay rent at most of its 800 stores for two quarters and also hurt landlords by putting its Go Outdoors subsidiary into administration.

Still, Cowgill hasn’t had things all his own way, says Jamie Nimmo in The Sunday Times. In May he downplayed suggestions that he would “hand over some of his day-to-day responsibilities to a chief executive”, claiming that any CEO eventually appointed would be solely a “bag carrier”. But after last weeks revolt, a “sheepish” Cowgill was forced to admit that there is indeed a plan to bring in a CEO.

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