The chair of JD Sports has said shareholders “may well” vote against his £4.3m bonus – which he was handed despite the retailer benefitting from millions of pounds in support during the pandemic.
But Peter Cowgill questioned why investors would do this “when the company has progressed”.
JD Sports employees have taken around £86m in furlough payments around the world, out of which £61m was in the UK.
Mr Cowgill defended the planned £4.3m bonus on Monday, saying he had only received one long-term incentive payout in eight years.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4’sWorld at One programme, he said that shareholders could decide to vote against the bonus, something that advisory group Glass Lewis recommended in a recent report.
“They may well do that, but I’m just saying why would you when the company has progressed?” Mr Cowgill said.
He shot back at comparisons to non-essential retailers such as Primark, who have paid back the money they claimed to keep staff on furlough.
“As we speak today we’re under pressure on the online. The online is a very small proportion of our income, the online in Asos is 100 per cent of their income, so to compare them is absolutely ridiculous,” he said.
He said that Primark, which is owned by AB Foods, gets a lot of its money from selling essential goods.
The British government launched its furlough scheme to protect against job losses when businesses were forced to close in the pandemic.
Workers on furlough received 80 per cent of their usual salary with the help of government support through the furlough scheme.
“The furlough payments, the furlough receipts were used for exactly what they were prescribed for,” Mr Cowgill said.
“In other words we were a company that was non-essential, that was closed, we didn’t take any income, so you can glean from that the leaning from the overseas income.
The JD Sports chair added: “So we didn’t take that, we paid that out, we actually were very relaxed in terms of in the subsequent lockdowns in terms of very light on furlough.
“We used it to retain employment, we didn’t make redundancies.”
Mr Cowgill has been the chair of JD Sports since 2004.
Earlier this month, the retailer denied it was looking to recruit a new chair amid reports it was planning for a succession.
Additional reporting by Press Association