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MJ Gleeson chief quits amid row over £3m pay deal

The chief executive of MJ Gleeson, the FTSE-250 housebuilder, is to step down amid a boardroom ‎row over his pay package.

Sky News has learnt that Jolyon Harrison is to step down after seven years at the helm of the company, despite its strong recent performance.

A person close to the situation said on Sunday evening that Mr Harrison and boardroom colleagues had been “unable to agree a way forward” on his remuneration.

The MJ Gleeson chief executive was paid almost £3m last year, a sizeable package for a company with a market value at the close of trading on Friday of £483.6m.

In 2017, he received a total of £2.8m, with last year’s annual report highlighting that he has been paid about £12m since taking over as chief executive.

A source said there had been tension for some time about the size of Mr Harrison’s pay deals at a time of continuing scrutiny of boardroom rewards in corporate Britain.

MJ Gleeson trades through two main divisions: Gleeson Homes, which has shown strong growth in the number of completed units; and Gleeson Strategic Land, which boasts of a strong pipeline of new sites for future housing construction.

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The company is chaired by Dermot Gleeson, who has been on the board for more than 40 years, making him one of the longest-serving directors of a blue-chip British company.

It was unclear on Sunday night whether the group has a successor lined up for Mr Harrison.

If the announcement about his departure makes explicit reference to the disagreement over his remuneration, it would be rare for a major company to expose such a rift – particularly at a time of relatively strong financial and operational performance.

Mr Harrison’s departure will not be the first pay-related exit for a chief executive in the housebuilding sector.

Last year, Jeff Fairburn, the boss of Persimmon, left amid intense pressure from politicians and shareholders over his mammoth long-term share awards.

Mr Fairburn was handed a £75m bonus last year following a surge in the company’s profits, partly fuelled by its participation in the government’s Help To Buy programme.

This year has seen a large number of big City protests over FTSE-350 pay packages, including major revolts at companies including GVC Holdings, the owner of Ladbrokes, and the fund manager Standard Life Aberdeen.

A spokesman for MJ Gleeson declined to comment on Sunday.

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