Shareholders in push to axe Aurizon chairman

ON THE eve of freight giant Aurizon's most important meeting of the year, its chairman John Prescott has landed in the sights of shareholders who want him to leave his seat behind.

The annual general meeting for Aurizon - formerly QR National - begins this morning, but the Australian Shareholders Association plans to use its clout to fight against two motions on the agenda, both involving how much the bosses earn.

In the past financial year alone, ASA's own chairman Ian Curry said chief executive Lance Hockridge's base pay went up by $300,000 to $1.93 million.

Add to that a short-term incentive of $2.5 million and Mr Hockridge - under the eye of Mr Prescott - earned more than $6m in the 2012-13 financial year.

"That seems excessive," Mr Curry said.

Because the ASA feels Mr Prescott never addressed concerns about how much executives are paid, it wants him gone.

"For the last year, we have asked them to address that remuneration structure and have never had a satisfactory response," Mr Curry said.

Mr Prescot is not up for election, so it would ultimately be his decision if he was to leave.
What ASA and its voting proxies - including ISS - hope to do, is vote against incentive grants and the adoption of a remuneration report.

If it can swing support against the "rem report", the board scores a strike.

This is often enough to inspire change because a second strike - which would have to wait to next year's AGM - forces a board election.

Whether it is enough to force out Mr Prescott will depend on how other shareholders feel once proceedings start at 10am.

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