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Highfield targeted by shareholder

Johnston Press suffers investor backlash over pay

Ashley Highfield: bonus cap

Newspaper publisher Johnston Press, owner of The Scotsman and the ‘i’ newspaper, today suffered a backlash from shareholders over its pay and performance.

Just over 32% of votes cast at the annual general meeting were against its remuneration policy, despite the company agreeing to lower the maximum bonus available to executives.

A similar protest was shown towards its performance plan.

Votes cast against the company, which owns more than 200 local papers across the UK, were largely by activist and biggest shareholder Crystal Amber, which has been campaigning for change.

The board said it noted “the significant proportion of the votes cast against resolutions 2 and 12”.

It added: “The company will continue its ongoing dialogue with shareholders at the appropriate time in order to further understand the reasons behind the results of the votes on these resolutions.”

Shareholders had previously pressured the board to reduce the potential payout to chief executive Ashley Highfield after expressing concern over the company’s performance.

London-based Johnston Press had planned to increase the top payout to 180% of Mr Highfield’s £430,000 salary, but under a new three-year remuneration policy this will be capped at 120%, still around half a million pounds.

Shareholders have been horrified by the company’s plunging stock market valuation which has left the company valued at just £15m amid fears that it will be unable to refinance its £220m bond debt.

On Friday the board issued a trading update showing more positive trends in the first quarter had continued.

However, the update showed revenue continues to fall and despite some upturn in volumes in key titles the company continues to rely on the ‘i’ newspaper which it acquired last year.

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