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Old Mutual confident most investors will support CEO pay plans

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(Bloomberg) – Old Mutual Plc, the London-based insurer splitting its business into four units, said it’s confident most shareholders will support a plan to offer Chief Executive Officer Bruce Hemphill a bonus equal to 10 times his base pay for the break up.

Company representatives spent three days in Cape Town and Johannesburg to canvass investors on the payout, meeting with more than 20 shareholders across South Africa and the U.K., Danuta Gray, an independent non-executive director of Old Mutual and chairman of the remuneration committee, said by phone from London on Friday. Talks were held with holders of about 50 percent of Old Mutual’s stock, she said.

“We have had a number come back to us and say they will support the bonus,” Gray said. “We’re confident we will get support from most of them.”

See also: Standard Life chairman says executive pay too high in London

Old Mutual’s Hemphill, who joined the company in November, said in March he would break the company into four separate units by 2018 so that it no longer trades at a discount to the combined value of its different businesses. With proposed base pay of 900,000 pounds ($1.3 million) this year, Hemphill’s bonus for breaking the group apart could top 9 million pounds, according to Bloomberg calculations.

‘Right Guy’

The insurer met with the Public Investment Corp., Sanlam Ltd., Coronation Fund Managers Ltd. and Allan Gray Ltd., which together control more than 23 percent of the share capital, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

“The whole plan is premised on replacing three years of rewards” and also takes into account that Hemphill is working himself out of a job, Gray said. The break up is complicated and the CEO will have to carefully manage the risks, she said.

“I and the rest of the board fully support Bruce’s plan,” she said. “He’s the right guy to deliver. Nobody we met was vehemently opposed to what we’re doing.”

The insurer’s CEO bonus plan may be the best way to align his interests with those of investors, Leonard Kruger, a money manager at Cape Town-based Allan Gray, which owns about 3 percent of Old Mutual, said on Thursday. “There’s a case to be made here for huge value creation.”

Old Mutual started trading in London in July 1999. In almost 17 years, the stock has only gained 13 percent, making it the third-worst performer on the 8-member FTSE 350 Life Insurance Index. In South Africa, while the share price has risen almost threefold over the same period, Old Mutual is the country’s second-worst performing insurer after Clientele Ltd.

Richard Anderson, a portfolio manager at Sanlam, declined to detail how the firm will vote at Old Mutual’s annual general meeting on June 28. The PIC and Coronation didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

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