Covent Garden-owner Shaftesbury Capital faces bruising pay row

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The newly merged property empire encompassing swathes of London’s Soho and Covent Garden is facing a bruising shareholder row over millions of pounds handed out in executive share awards.

Sky News understands that a number of major investors plan to vote against the remuneration report at the annual meeting of the newly formed Shaftesbury Capital in the coming months.

City investors are understood to be livid that bosses including Ian Hawksworth, its chief executive, saw share grants vest when the merger completed.

Shaftesbury Capital was formed from the merger of Capital & Counties Properties and Shaftesbury, creating a West End landlord which owns some of London’s landmark shopping and leisure destinations.

Mr Hawksworth ran Capco, which was the acquiring entity in the merger despite being smaller, making the vesting of its share awards unusual – and controversial during a cost-of-living crisis.

In Capco’s 2022 annual report, the company said the deal structure had been determined as the right one for shareholders.

It said: “Whilst this structure may have resulted in only Shaftesbury’s share awards being triggered, this would have created an inequitable situation where two groups of employees were to be combined, but only the smaller company’s employees’ share awards would continue, under amended performance targets.

“However, Capco’s share plan rules permitted the Committee to treat the merger as equivalent to a takeover and therefore trigger the awards, creating equality of treatment, for all employees.”

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A Shaftesbury Capital spokesman declined to comment, although a company insider said the vesting of the share awards had been fully disclosed in the deal prospectus.

He added that the deal had been supported by 97% of Capco shareholders, although he acknowledged that there had not been a separate vote on remuneration.

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