Coronavirus puts top executives’ pay in the spotlight

Coronavirus puts top executives’ pay in the spotlight
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Cuts for some CEOs but no change for others — and a split between sectors

Like most high street retailers, UK jewellers H Samuel and Ernest Jones have been hammered by the coronavirus. Amid slumping sales, Signet, which owns the UK store chains as well as US counterpart Kay, has halved salaries and delayed handing out shares to top executives.

Meanwhile Alan Joyce, chief executive of Australian airline Qantas, will not take a salary this year, while Philip Jansen, head of BT — who has himself recovered from coronavirus — has said that half his annual salary would go to the UK’s NHS.

But fortunes are notably different at big pharmaceutical and healthcare companies that continue to pay executives millions of dollars. Boston biotech firm Moderna, which is working on a vaccine for Covid-19, paid its chief medical officer Tal Zaks a $1m retention bonus in March.

The dichotomy underscores the consequences of the pandemic for corporate leaders accustomed to multimillion-dollar pay packages. The remuneration of executives leading healthcare, biotech and life sciences businesses has mostly been maintained, while some peers in hospitality, travel and discretionary consumer products such as jewellery have seen cuts.

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