Top 40 has a familiar sound

THIRTY nine of WA’s 40 top-paid public company directors earned more than $400,000 in 2001, and number 40 was only a shade behind that figure.

The first name on the WA Business News list of highest paid company directors should surprise few people. In the 2000/01 financial year, Wesfarmers Ltd’s managing director Michael Chaney took home just over $3 million in remuneration, or about 1.2 per cent of the company’s annual profit.

Mr Chaney earned more than $1.2 million more than WA’s number two, John Akehurst of Woodside Petroleum. Mr Akehurst was paid about $1.8 million for the year, just a small fraction of Woodside’s annual profit of $966 million.

Of course, executive salaries cannot always be judged on company profit alone. Lindsay Sandford, the managing director of Voicenet Australia was paid $1.42 million for leading the company to a $17 million loss for the 2000/01 year. Mr Sandford was not alone in the ranks of the well-paid loss-makers. Gordon McIntosh, the former man-aging director of My Casino Ltd, earned just more than $1 million for 2000/01, despite resigning in February last year. My Casino reported an $11 million loss for the year.

A surprisingly high number of companies (16) reported losses last year but still saw fit to pay their heads many times average weekly earnings.

The majority of such companies sit in either the mining or technology sectors, a situation that probably explains their companies’ poor performances, given poor commodity prices for some metals and poor sentiment towards anything “e” related

In total, nine executives earned more than $1 million last year, and Geoff Wedlock of Western Metals was paid but the barest of margins behind that figure, earning between $990,000 and $999,999.

A further 22 directors earned more than $500,000 in annual salaries, while Paul Underwood of Tap Oil rounded the 40 top earners out by virtue of his salary of $380,000-$390,000.

The resource sector is still the best paying industry in WA for directors, with 15 of our best-paid men heading up either mining or oil and gas-producing companies.

Loretta Lee of Merchant House International is the only woman to make it onto the top 40. She earned about $530,000 for the year.

Ms Lee was also one of just six people who chaired the board of their company, although five of the six (including Ms Lee) also acted as either managing directors or CEOs.

Brettney Fogarty was the sole company chairman on the list with no further executive role (GRD NL), taking home about $430,000 in 2000/01.

Peter Giannis, a director of Beilby recruitment consultants, said it was unsurprising that many directors received packages of more than $400,000.

They commonly received base cash salaries, options in the company they serve, house and car allowances and other non-cash forms of remuneration.

Mr Giannis said that, in general, heads of national or international companies based in Perth would receive similar remuneration to company directors in the eastern States.

“The problem arises where Perth is a smaller place and therefore a lot of the time companies with head offices in Perth tend to be smaller than (companies in) Sydney,” he said.

“So in general, people in Perth tend to get paid a little bit less than if they were based in Sydney, but there are individuals earning at the same level, if not more, than what some of their Sydney counterparts are getting paid.”

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