EDITORIAL: Steinhoff’s insult to investors
In a stunning act of chutzpah, Steinhoff has asked shareholders to approve a recommendation that directors get awarded vast sums of money
If you’d been in any doubt that Steinhoff’s board have little conception of the sentiment in the society in which it operates, that rosy illusion was rudely shattered this week.
In a stunning act of chutzpah, Steinhoff has asked shareholders to approve a recommendation that directors get awarded vast sums of money because of the "exceptional demands" made on them to clean up an almighty mess which, let’s be frank, might just have been avoided had the board done its job with greater vigour in the first place.
In a notice to shareholders, Steinhoff proposes a "one-off payment" of €200,000 to chair Heather Sonn; another €200,000 to Steve Booysen, head of the audit committee; and €100,000 to Johan van Zyl. These payments, worth R7.2m, are in addition to their normal fees, which are pretty rich. Sonn’s fee, for example, is €300,000 — not bad for a nonexecutive role.
This proposal is in poor taste, showing a tin ear to the millions of South Africans whose retirement savings took a haircut thanks to Steinhoff’s collapse. For investors, who’ve seen Steinhoff’s market value shed 92% — R182bn in round numbers — it’s an insult.
The proposal goes to the vote at Steinhoff’s AGM, in Amsterdam, on April 20. It’s time for shareholders to let the board know how they feel.