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More than one third of shareholders have voted against the executive compensation plans put forth by Penn Entertainment at the company’s AGM, as disclosed in a recent SEC filing by the US operator.

A substantial 44,367,517 votes were registered in dissent against the compensation proposals, while 63,078,413 votes lent their approval.

Additionally, more than a quarter of investors opposed the re-election of board chair David Handler.

This dissent follows criticism from activist investor and Donerail Group managing director William Wyatt, who recently raised concerns about what he labelled as “significant strategic failures” within Penn Entertainment.

Wyatt didn’t hold back, advocating for the company’s sale earlier this month.

A major point of contention raised by Wyatt was the “excessive compensation” of nearly $100m allocated to CEO Jay Snowden (pictured) despite what he described as “extremely poor performance.”

He questioned the board’s decision to approve $99.3m in total compensation for Snowden between 2020 and 2023, particularly in light of the company’s declining stock value.

Moreover, Wyatt highlighted Snowden’s compensation in 2022, a year marked by a significant decline in the company’s stock price, during which Snowden received over $14m.

2023 CEO pay ratio

In a letter to shareholders ahead of the AGM, Penn revealed that Snowden’s 2023 annual total compensation was $15.5m.

The group added that “the median of the 2023 annual total compensation of all of our employees (excluding Mr. Snowden) was $38,332, and the ratio of these amounts was 405 to 1.

“The company believes that the foregoing ratio is a reasonable estimate determined in accordance with SEC rules,” Penn said.

Wyatt, however, also cited damning assessments from shareholder advisory firms, such as Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS), which awarded Snowden the lowest possible rating of -100 for his alignment of pay with performance.

Despite these concerns, Wyatt claimed that Penn’s board continued to base compensation on a peer group consisting mainly of larger companies, further raising questions about fairness and market alignment.

Adding to investor unease was Snowden’s consistent selling of company stock, which Wyatt argued raised doubts about his confidence in Penn Entertainment’s future.

Since taking on the CEO role, Snowden has sold over 750,000 shares worth approximately $45m.

Last week, analysts at JMP Securities suggested that Hard Rock could be a potential buyer if Penn Entertainment decided to pursue a sale.

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