The female acting chair of Playtech, the London-listed gambling software developer, is facing a protest vote at its AGM next week over the number of women in its boardroom.
Sky News has learnt that Glass Lewis, a major proxy adviser, has urged shareholders to oppose the re-election of Claire Milne to its board because it has failed to comply with the recommendation of a government-commissioned review that at least a third of directors should be women.
Glass Lewis’s recommendation presents Playtech with the prospect of one of its two female directors being ousted – a move that would itself increase the board’s gender imbalance.
Ms Milne is to step down as interim chair next month, when she will be replaced by Brian Mattingley, an experienced gambling industry executive.
In a letter to shareholders last week which has been seen by Sky News, the company said that Mr Mattingley would lead “a full review of governance structures throughout Playtech to ensure that the diversity of the stakeholders that we serve is reflected in the structure and composition of board, board committees, executive management and broader workforce at Playtech”.
City insiders said, however, that Mr Mattingley’s appointment was also drawing opposition from a number of investors because of his previous role at Football Index, the gambling venture which collapsed earlier this year.
A source close to one shareholder said they were preparing to raise questions at next week’s AGM about the $200m valuation at which Playtech had agreed to sell Finalto, its financial subsidiary.
The FTSE-250 company is also facing a protest vote over boardroom pay, which became a flashpoint last year when its remuneration report was voted down by furious shareholders.
The Investment Association’s influential IVIS voting service has ‘red-topped’ Playtech ahead of next week’s annual general meeting, according to people who have seen its report.
IVIS’s concerns relate to the calculation of bonuses for top executives, including the CEO Mor Weiser, who was awarded £534,000 last year.
City sources said IVIS had flagged to fund managers that Playtech’s board had handed out bonuses based on the company achieving “strategic objectives” rather than hitting financial targets.
One person close to Playtech said the company had reduced base pay and pension contributions for executives during the year, and that Mr Weiser had received just 24% of his maximum potential bonus.
Although other voting advisers such as ISS and Glass Lewis have recommended voting in favour of Playtech’s pay resolutions, some major shareholders are likely to oppose them.
It would be the latest revolt to hit a blue-chip UK company in 2021 as investors hit back at boards over the way they have paid bosses during the pandemic.
Playtech declined to comment.