We Buy Any Car boss defends being paid staggering £29million bonus

Anyone who says they don’t want money is talking b*******’, says boss of We Buy Any Car owners. But how does she justify a £29million bonus?

  • Female boss Avril Palmer-Baunack is lined up to take a £29million bonus
  • We Buy Any Car has an incentive scheme which has led to the huge payout
  • Avril, 53, is executive chairman of British Car Auctions, which owns the business

It has gained a reputation for giving miserly valuations to drivers in a rush to sell their cars.

But when it comes to paying its top staff, We Buy Any Car has shown a rather more generous streak.

The female boss of the second-hand car website has lined up a £29million bonus, which is believed to make her the highest paid female boss of a UK-listed firm.

Avril Palmer-Baunack has become the latest executive to become engulfed in an acrimonious row over fat-cat pay.

The extraordinary windfall, the result of an incentive scheme drawn up four years ago, has put her on a collision course with shareholders – and sparked jealousy among male colleagues.

The 54-year-old is executive chairman of British Car Auctions, which owns We Buy Any Car.

Avril Palmer-Baunack is executive chairman of British Car Auctions, which owns the business

Describing itself as the UK’s largest car buying service, the company claims it has helped more than one million people sell their cars since it was founded in 2006.

But the website, which has adverts featuring TV presenter Phillip Schofield cuddling a kitten, has been criticised for paying low prices. Drivers often receive less than the valuation offered online.

In 2011 the now-defunct Office for Fair Trading took action against the website after finding that 96 per cent of customers received less than its valuation tool indicated. But it remains very popular among drivers who do not want the hassle of selling their car privately.

The business model has helped generate a fortune for Mrs Palmer-Baunack andd she now joins an almost exclusively male list of executives who have found themselves embroiled in controversy over excessive pay.

On top of her £29million bonus, linked to the company’s share price, she also received an 8 per cent rise in her basic salary to £525,000.

In leaked emails seen by The Mail on Sunday, one former male colleague remarked that he might have been better off if he had a ‘pair of **** like Avril’.

Shareholders have also been encouraged to vote against the bonus scheme, with a report by advisory firm Glass Lewis calling the £29million pay-out ‘extremely disproportionate’.

The board faces a showdown with investors at its AGM in London on Thursday.

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But the vote is only advisory, meaning she can keep her bonus – unless she feels obliged to appease shareholders.

Given her hard-nosed reflections on executive pay and the workplace, that seems unlikely.

Mrs Palmer-Baunack, who has a grown-up son and daughter, is married to a German executive at Volkswagen. She previously defended her £7.1million pay package in 2015 by saying: ‘Anyone who says they don’t want money is talking b*******’.

The former Saturday girl at Marks & Spencer has also shown little sympathy with the idea that women are discriminated against in the workplace.

She once said she was ‘very cynical’ about the existence of ‘glass ceilings’ – a term describing the reluctance by companies to give top jobs to women. In an interview two years ago she said: ‘If you get up and do a good day’s work, you are respected for it.’

During her first full-time job at a car rental desk in Kennington, South London, she realised she was good at selling and that the job was ‘all about up-selling everything’. ‘Upselling’ means persuading customers to buy extras or more expensive items.

On top of her £29million bonus, linked to the company’s share price, Avril Palmer-Baunack also received an 8 per cent rise in her basic salary to £525,000.

British Car Auctions has defended her remuneration, arguing it needs to pay a ‘competitive rate’ to attract top people. But MPs are likely to take a dim view. Theresa May has published a public register to name and shame firms which have faced a revolt from shareholders over high pay.

More than a fifth of Britain’s FTSE listed-firms appear on the list, including Burberry, Sports Direct and Sky.

Earlier this year the chief executive of housebuilder Persimmon announced he would hand back £25million of his £100million pay package, to pacify shareholders.

The award for Jeff Fairburn was generated by a 2012 long-term incentive plan. However, Mrs Palmer-Baunack’s haul is dwarfed by Denise Coates, who founded private online gambling firm Bet365 in 2000 from a Portakabin in a Stoke car park.

The billionaire awarded herself £217million in pay and dividends in 2016. That is about 1,400 times more than the Prime Minister.

One of the few highly paid female bosses of firms listed on the stockmarket is Emma Walmsley. She could earn up to £9.2million as chief executive of GlaxoSmithKline this year.

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