The executive chairman of JD Group, Peter Cowgill, was reportedly handed nearly £6m in “special bonuses” over the course of 18 months despite the company accepting more than £100m in government support.
During the course of the pandemic, the group received £86.1m in furlough payments for staff and roughly £38m in business rates relief last year.
Given the impact of Covid-19, the chairman alongside other board members deemed it “inappropriate” to receive a salary increase and voluntarily reduced their pay by at least 25%.
Cowgill personally saw a 75% salary reduction to £700,000. There were also group-wide pay freezes, recruitment freezes and bonus deferrals.
The group revealed that the majority of this year’s payment to Cowgill was in the form of the “special bonus” that was approved by shareholders in July 2019 for “exceptional historic performance”, and was set to be paid in four instalments of £1.5m.
Two instalments were paid before Covid arrived, however the third instalment was paid out this year after all bonus payments were put on hold in April 2020.
The news follows the company’s recent trading update which saw it make a pre-tax profit of £421.3m down from £438.8m, before exceptional items for the year to 30 January 2021.
Group sales exceeded the previous year, coming to £6.17bn, with its UK division retaining roughly 70% of revenues after moving online during the first lockdown last spring.
In a company issued statement, the group said: “Government support was accepted in locations where it was offered, with the primary purpose of retaining the thousands of retail jobs which were at risk during the period of prolonged store closure.
“This government support fulfilled its purpose as the group has not made redundancies on a large scale and the vast majority of jobs have been retained.”
They added: “Against this background, the board and remuneration committee decided it is appropriate to reinstate the payment of dividends while also returning to more normal levels of pay for executive and senior team members. In comparison with previous years, the executive chairman has received a reduced bonus level this year.”