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Last day in the office for Persimmon and Unilever CEOs after year of controversy

By Maryam Cockar and Ravender Sembhy, Press Association City Staff
Jeff Fairburn was dogged by controversy over his £75 million payout.

Persimmon boss Jeff Fairburn is to step down on Monday, bringing to a close a year of controversy over executive pay at the housebuilder.

Last month he agreed to quit the FTSE 100 company because of the “distraction” over his controversial £75 million pay-packet, which he said was hurting his and the company’s reputation.

The bumper bonus sparked outcry among politicians and shareholders, and was rejected by 48.5% of Persimmon investors in April as they vented their anger over the deal.

Following the furore, Mr Fairburn said earlier this year that he would donate a “substantial portion” of the bonus to charity and that he would set up a private trust.

Persimmon declined to comment on the charity donations, insisting it is a private matter.

Mr Fairburn said in November that he would leave the company by the end of 2018 by “mutual agreement” and at the firm’s request following a disastrous interview with the BBC when he walked off camera after being asked about his pay.

His £75 million payout could have been even higher at around £100 million, but he handed back £25 million in bonuses to assuage public anger.

Other executives had also picked up bumper pay deals under the company’s share scheme worth about £100 million.

Mr Fairburn, who headed up Persimmon since 2013, is to be replaced on an interim basis by group managing director David Jenkinson as the group searches for a permanent successor.

Meanwhile, Unilever boss Paul Polman is also due to leave the consumer goods giant on Monday after a year in which he failed to execute plans to ditch the UK for the Netherlands.

Mr Polman, who has been chief executive for over 10 years, was forced into an embarrassing U-turn over plans to move its headquarters from London to Rotterdam.

Under intense pressure from shareholders, Unilever withdrew a proposal to “simplify” its dual-headed Anglo-Dutch legal structure in October.

He will be replaced by Alan Jope, president of the group’s beauty and personal care division.

Mr Polman will step down from the board and his position as CEO on Monday, but will assist with the transition to new leadership in the first half of next year.

Mr Polman also fended off a £115 billion takeover approach from Kraft Heinz in 2017, which was abandoned less than three days later amid hostility from the Unilever board.