By Kate Holton
LONDON (Reuters) - Shareholders in educational publisher Pearson <PSON.L> sanctioned the appointment of former Disney executive Andy Bird as CEO on Friday, accepting the need for a multimillion-pound pay packet to secure his services.
The British company had to get the backing of shareholders to offer Bird a co-investment opportunity worth up to $9.3 million, a move it said was necessary to secure a "rare" talent whose experience fitted with Pearson's requirements.
Of votes cast, 67% backed the move and Bird will take over as chief executive on Oct. 19.
"During this process, we have undertaken extensive engagement with our shareholders, in which Andy has been recognised as an outstanding candidate," Sidney Taurel, Chair of Pearson, said.
Although Bird does not have direct experience in education, he has been on Pearson's board since May and helped develop Disney's direct-to-consumer strategy.
Pearson has endured a tumultuous four years as it adapts from selling textbooks via book shops to online courseware. Bird will replace John Fallon who cut thousands of jobs, sold off assets and issued a string of profit warnings during his tenure.
Bird will receive a salary of $1.25 million, the chance to double that if he hits targets, the opportunity to earn more again if he beats targets, and shares that vest over three years, currently worth around $9.3 million.
He will also buy Pearson shares worth $3.75 million.
The company said it had taken notice of the significant minority of shareholders who voted against the proposal, and would continue to engage with investors over the matter.
Excessive pay has been in focus in Britain for a number of years, with campaign groups such as the High Pay Centre lobbying for smaller deals to cut economic inequality.
(Reporting by Kate Holton; editing by James Davey, Kirsten Donovan)