Persimmon, the UK’s second-biggest housebuilder, will appoint a City heavyweight as its new chairman on Thursday as it aims to put a huge executive pay row behind it.
Sky News has learnt that Roger Devlin, who was recently named as the new chairman of bookmaker William Hill, will take on the same role at Persimmon.
His appointment at the FTSE-100 housebuilder will trigger his departure from Marston’s, the listed pubs operator, City sources said on Wednesday night.
Mr Devlin, a well-known boardroom figure who also serves as an independent director of the Football Association, will be handed the task of rebuilding Persimmon’s fractured relationships with shareholders and politicians.
The company has been in the crosshairs of the City and Westminster for months over a long-term share scheme established in 2012 which was due to pay £110m to Jeff Fairburn, the chief executive.
Critics have argued that the lavish pay award was inflated by profits bolstered by the artificial subsidy of the Government’s Help To Buy scheme, prompting Mr Fairburn and two senior colleagues to hand back a chunk of their awards last month.
Mr Fairburn said he would also give an unspecified sum to charity following a cross-party political outcry which, unusually, also drew criticism from a number of other housebuilders.
Persimmon was left searching for a new chairman after the incumbent, Nicholas Wrigley, quit in December over the design of the 2012 pay scheme.
Jonathan Davie, who chaired the company’s remuneration committee, also resigned.
The recruitment of a heavyweight figure such as Mr Devlin will signal to the City that Persimmon is keen to put the row behind it.
A number of investors are expected to oppose its remuneration report at next month’s annual meeting, despite the olive branches offered in recent weeks.
Reforms to boardroom pay and corporate governance practices, which include several new measures this year, have so far made 2018 a subdued year for revolts over executive pay.
One of the paradoxes of the row which erupted at Persimmon is that the company’s strong financial performance has been warmly received by investors, with revenue in 2017 up 9% to £3.42bn and underlying pre-tax profit soaring by 25% to £977m.
Persimmon now has a market capitalisation of close to £8bn, with its shares having risen by 21% during the last 12 months.
Mr Devlin has sat on a string of corporate boards, including National Express, Porthaven Care Homes and the Principal Hayley hotel and conference venue operator.
Persimmon declined to comment.