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What happens when age is enrolled in the CEO pay debate?

by on April 19, 2016

CEO and executive pay is unsurprisingly in the news again.  The bare figures and the percentage rises involved seem pretty shocking – as in this example of the McDonald’s CEO 368% increase!  While shareholders may reject such deals – as in the recent example of BP – these votes are often ‘non-binding’ and the ability of organisations to find ways around such votes seems to demonstrate just how innovate senior management can be when something really important (their own pay) is at stake.

However, from an age perspective I found the explanation (justification) offered by Sir Martin Sorrell warrants a bit more unpacking.  In this account in the Guardian underlying the ‘because I’m worth it’ claim, age and time spent at work are enrolled as part of this justification.  In neither the McDonalds or BP coverage (links above) have I seen mention of the CEO’s age as part of the justification but it does seem to crop up in the Sorrell case, though not in all coverage.  What does appear in most news coverage this morning is the justification that it has taken “over 30 years of sweat” to build WPP as a business incurring significant personal (one assumes financial) risk.  Now apart from the fact that I feel comparing marketing to manual labour is rather stretching the point of the toil involved, the implication here is that time spent in an organization should be rewarded.  Many individuals (albeit not at the level of Sorrell) make considerable trade-off for their employers in all sorts of ways, but very very few will see that rewarded further down the line should they stay in an organization as long as Sorrell.

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