Readers of this blog will recall that Publicis Groupe supremo Maurice Lévy’s €900,000 “salary sacrifice” isn’t quite as altruistic as it appears (although, all credit for some skilful self-publicity on his part).
Among the emoluments he won’t be foregoing is a one-off “deferred compensation payment”, which crystallises when he (supposedly) retires at the end of this year.
Thus far, the exact amount has been shrouded in mystery. It was with great interest, therefore, that I read the following extract in The Economic Times:
PARIS: Publicis boss Maurice Levy is set to collect 16.2 million euros ($21.6 million) in deferred pay this year after the advertising agency hit some performance targets and based on the length of his service as chief executive, according to a regulatory filing.
“The deferred compensation is due to Maurice Levy because of his commitment to carry out his responsibilities until December 31, 2011,” Publicis said in its annual report. “It was from the beginning a loyalty tool that was not linked to his departure from the group but to his commitment to remain in his post until the end of his fixed contract.”
A loyalty tool, eh? More perhaps what Arthur Daley, of saintly memory, would have called “a nice little earner”.
UPDATE 3/4/12: With a general election only weeks away, Lévy’s €16m terminal bonus has now become ready ammunition in a mudslinging match between the two leading French presidential candidates. Parti Socialiste candidate Philippe Hollande has called the bonus “unacceptable”. Others in the PS have termed it “obscene”.
But Nicolas Sarkozy, incumbent president and candidate of the right-wing UMP, has not pulled his punches either. He rounded on Elisabeth Badinter, Publicis Groupe’s biggest shareholder, as the guilty party (though not by name). “M. Hollande, it is shareholders who decide on remuneration, and they are your friends,” Sarkozy said in a speech on March 28th, the day after Hollande’s outburst. “The champagne Left, the bohemian-bourgeois Left, has no morality lessons to give us.” Badinter is a friend of Hollande, and has widely-known radical chic leanings. Her husband was a minister under Socialist president Francois Mitterand.
Eventually, Laurent Parisot – head of employers’ association Medef, in which Lévy plays a prominent role – had to come to the embattled adman’s rescue:
“Publicis, which has [had] exceptional results, is one of the biggest French companies and, most importantly, is a world leader in the advertising business. What isn’t acceptable is high compensation when companies are in trouble.”
An interesting rumour was doing the rounds about a year ago, to the effect that Lévy would seek an ambassadorship after stepping down from PG. Not the kind of controversy he would be wanting if so.