Future CEO gets 21% pay rise after 'truly outstanding' stewardship through Covid-19 crisis

Zillah Byng-Thorne pay

The chief executive of specialist publisher Future has received a 21% pay rise following her stewardship of the business through the Covid-19 crisis.

Zillah Byng-Thorne’s salary was increased to £575,000 effective from 1 October, fixed for at least the next two years.

In its annual report, the company said this was her first pay review since 2018 and follows an “assessment of Zillah’s individual performance in role, her leadership in delivering exceptional results for our shareholders, and more generally the increase in size, complexity and geographical spread of the group in recent years”.

In the past year the company has bought video content production agency Barcroft Studios, magazine giant TI Media, and (after the end of the last financial year) digital entertainment brand Cinema Blend and price comparison site GoCompare.

In 2020 Future tripled its pre-tax profits for the second year in a row to £52m, with adjusted operating profit up 79% to £93.4m and revenue up 56% to £339.6m.

[Read more: Future to make 150 hires in three months as Covid-19 fails to halt growth plans]

The report added that the Remuneration Committee “observes first-hand the dedication and time that Zillah gives to her role, and strongly believes that the increase positions the resulting salary level appropriately against the market”.

Byng-Thorne’s pension benefit is being reduced to match the proportion given to other staff, dropping from 15% of her salary to 10.5% in January and 6% the following year.

Her maximum bonus remains at 200%, with 50% to be paid in cash in November next year and 50% in shares deferred for two years.

Chairman Richard Huntingford said the pandemic had highlighted the difference between most chief executives who are “good leaders” and the small pool who are “truly outstanding”.

They are “individuals who are able to respond to the need for difficult, urgent and far-reaching decision making and who, in hugely challenging times, lead with clarity, bravery, authenticity and empathy, whilst putting the needs of others before their own,” he said.

“Zillah has shown herself to be just such a leader, supported magnificently by her executive team.”

Future publishes more than 220 global brands including Four Four Two, Woman’s Weekly and Games Radar.

It said its diversified strategy offset the impact on the magazine and events sectors from the Covid-19 pandemic, leading to the decision to pay back £0.5m in furlough cash from the UK Government.

Rachel Addison, who was appointed chief financial officer in June after Future bought out her former employer TI Media, has a salary of £355,250 which will rise by 1.5% in January in line with the rest of the company. She has a pension benefit of 6% and a maximum bonus of 150%.

Future said its content is now read by one in three internet users in the UK and US.

Its global audience grew by 46% to reach 393.6m people every month from a mixture of underlying growth in audience engagement, new launches and acquisitions, and demand for digital content during the Covid-19 pandemic, it said.

Future has been focusing on growing its US audience in particular, and 49% of its revenue now comes from the States.

Its total magazine circulation is 3.8m, up from 1.5m in 2019. It has 1.5m subscribers in total, up from 0.9m last year.

Future also pointed to the latest ecommerce success of its Black Friday and Cyber Monday weekend affiliate revenues.

It drove more than £64m from its core technology lifestyle sites, up 18.5% on the same period in 2019, while it also reported growth of 84% at its women’s lifestyle sites, 131% in its music portfolio and 309% in sports.

Byng-Thorne said: “Future has continued to thrive by knowing what our audiences value most, enabling us to take advantage of the changing market landscape to continue to deliver incredible content to our communities in whatever way meets their needs.

“Our content now reaches one in three adults in the UK and US, and our leadership positions are underpinned by a track record of strong, consistent organic growth, and accelerated through acquisitions.

“The results in our report demonstrate the continued strength of our offer, as well as the innovation, fortitude and agility of our business, focused on its purpose, delivered by its people.”

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