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RUTH SUNDERLAND: Row over Ashley's £100m pledge to future son-in-law

The statement from Frasers Group to the market about the stupendous pay package for chief executive-in-waiting Michael Murray was, in one respect, admirable.

Unlike the usual tangle of verbiage and weasel words about pay, it made crystal clear that Murray is in line for £100million if he hits share price targets.

No need to reach for a calculator or to check the figures with a tetchy corporate spin doctor – there it was in black and white.

In the family: Fraser's boss to be and boss Mike Ashley Michael Murray (pictured) is in line for £100m if he hits share price targets

In the family: Fraser’s boss to be and boss Mike Ashley Michael Murray (pictured) is in line for £100m if he hits share price targets

As followers of Frasers will know, Murray is the future son-in-law of boss Mike Ashley, as well as his heir apparent in the boardroom.He is still only 31.

Neither his in-laws nor his youth disqualify Murray from being a great success.

Lord Wolfson, who leads Next, was subjected to allegations of nepotism when he became the youngest chief executive of a FTSE 100 company at 33. 

Two decades on, Wolfson remains at the helm and is one of the most respected retailers in the country.

This proposed pay package, however, is outrageous, both in its design and in the potential quantum of reward.

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For Murray to be eligible for his £100million, the share price must hit a target of £15 for 30 consecutive days before October 2025. 

That is more than double the current level, hence the company’s claim it is a ‘stretching’ goal.

Murray hopes to achieve it with a strategy of moving upmarket – the high-end Flannels stores are seen as the future. 

But pinning such a huge reward on the sole measure of share price is unsound, because that yardstick depends on many other factors than Murray’s abilities as a boss.

It is also tin-eared and tasteless to concoct a scheme like this when much of the retail sector is on its knees due to Covid, and the High Street faces an uncertain future.

Frasers has benefited from £180m in taxpayer support in the form of business rates relief and furlough during the pandemic. 

These sums should be repaid before showering rewards on the new CEO.It’s reminiscent of the row over Jeff Fairburn, the former Persimmon chief executive, whose £82m in two years from the housebuilder created uproar.

Shareholders can’t force Murray out, though, because of Ashley’s controlling stake. 

The only thing that can be said for this is that the rotund tycoon has never even pretended to kow-tow to corporate governance, so at least shareholders know where they stand.


I’m fascinated by the concept of nominative determinism, where people’s names reflect their work, like Rich Ricci, now at broker Panmure Gordon.

He was previously a hot shot at Barclays, where he worked with another aptly-named moneybags, Bob Diamond.

When emails land from PR people called Swindell or Badger, I always have a quiet chuckle, though with a name like Sunderland and coming from the North East, I’m in the zone myself.

Company names are revealing for what they say about how a business sees itself and how it wishes to be seen.

The Apple name, along with the logo, is sheer brilliance.It has subliminal suggestions of the tree of knowledge and Sir Isaac Newton. 

There is also a story, probably an urban myth, that it is a tribute to Alan Turing, whose work paved the way for modern computing. 

Hounded for his homosexuality, Turing committed suicide by biting into an apple laced with poison.

Whether or not this resonance was intended when Steve Jobs named the company, the name Apple is deceptively simple, globally recognisable and refreshingly un-techy.

On the London stock market, firms once proudly blazoned their Britishness as a badge of international status, quality and reliability.Nowadays, the likes of BA, BT and BP prefer to go by initials.

I hate to think what the woke brigade would make of Imperial Chemical Industries if that fine company still existed.

Names are revealing.One of my rules of thumb is to be wary of any business with a silly one. Subjective, of course – but a useful flag for the likes of Monzo and Wonga.

As for Abrdn, the business whose former name, Standard Life Aberdeen, exuded Caledonian rectitude, wrds fl m.

Which brings us to Uber, a company name replete with an awful lot of Nietzschean superiority for a ride-hailing and food delivery service.

Having been criticised for years for its treatment of drivers, the company is now making friends with the GMB union and pressing for 스핀카지노 worker rights at rival mini-cab firms.

Time to change its name to Chutzpah?

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