Half of all top executives of companies in Belgium and the Netherlands gave up all or part of their bonus in 2020 as a result of the Covid-19 crisis, according to research from Vlerick Business School in Brussels.
Professor Xavier Baeten and researcher Marthe Van Hove of Vlerick looked at 95 stock market quoted companies in Belgium and the Netherlands, and found that 16% of CEOs had received no bonus in 2020, compared to only 1% in 2019.
In addition, 34% received only a partial bonus, meaning 50% gave up something because of the crisis.
In many cases, the lack of a bonus was a reflection of the company’s loss of income in the period, with the crisis as a principal cause. In other cases, however, the decision was taken to limit the budget for bonuses, for public relations or other reasons. In some cases, it was considered inappropriate to offer lavish bonuses to executives while the rest of the country was suffering.
Furthermore, in 20% of companies, the CEO not only took less or no bonus but actually lost part of their basic salary. Among them Carlos Brito of brewer AB InBev, who took a 20% cut in his salary for the period May to December 2020. His sector counterpart, Dolf van den Brink of Heineken, did the same from June, when he was appointed, until December.
In the case of both men, their companies had suffered a severe blow with the closure of bars in both countries over the course of months. And while supermarket sales were not affected, both companies felt the loss of over-the-counter sales, as well as the loss of rental income from tied properties.
For Brito, the result was that in 2020 he took home only €1.28 million, a pay-cut of 69% compared to 2019.
Earlier, a survey carried out by De Tijd financial daily revealed that other bosses who had taken a pay cut included Jan Suykens, CEO of investment group Ackermans & van Haaren (-50%); Jan De Witte of imaging group Barco (-25%); Jean-Pierre Hanin of property group Cofinimmo (-15%) and ING CEO Ralph Hamers (no bonus).