The 500 executive directors on the boards of Britain's 100 biggest companies were paid more than £650m last year. The highest-paid board was the advertising agency WPP, largely as a result of the £52m reward for the chief executive, Sir Martin Sorrell, when a 10-year performance plan cashed in.

If his pay deal is excluded, the eight executives on the board of Tesco were once again the most expensive directors in the FTSE 100.

On the Tesco board, it was the commercial and trading director, John Gildersleeve, rather than the chief executive, Sir Terry Leahy, who was the highest-paid director in the 2004-05 financial year. Mr Gildersleeve's pay topped £6m after his retirement from the board after 20 years prompted him to cash in all his long-term performance plans and share option schemes. Sir Terry's total was just over £4m.

The cheapest board is at Antofagasta, the Chilean minerals group listed in London, whose directors received a total of just £1.7m. British Airways, Boots and Associated British Foods are also at the bottom.

The average chief executive's basic salary is now some £630,000. The highest basic salary, £1.4m, is paid to Lord Browne, chief executive of Britain's biggest company, BP. The Guardian's annual survey found that the rate of pay rises in Britain's boardrooms shows no sign of abating despite the introduction of new rules which require companies to put pay schemes to shareholder votes.

In the past year, the biggest row took place at a company outside the FTSE 100. The sum involved - £250,000 - was relatively small but shareholders took a stand on a point of principle. It was over a special bonus to Lord Hollick, the chief executive of United Business Media, for a smooth handover to his successor. After a shaming vote, at which just 13% of shareholders backed the bonus, the Labour peer reluctantly renounced his right to the cash.

GlaxoSmithKline, the pharmaceutical company which suffered the first historic "no" vote against a remuneration report two years ago, has since avoided any run-ins with investors but the FTSE 100 mining company Xstrata was not so lucky as 25% of investors failed to support the remuneration report at this year's annual meeting.

A number of executives in the tables are no longer in their roles. Several took retirement during the financial year covered by the survey or were ousted. Robert Adams, a director at Rio Tinto, died in January this year. One featured because he exercised his options to help fund a divorce. David Harding's basic salary is less than the average for a chief executive but his pay at William Hill was boosted by more than £5m in option gains which he cashed in.



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