Tesco Defends Pay for Fresh and Easy Boss

LONDON -- Tesco leapt to the defense of Tim Mason, the head of its Fresh and Easy business in the United States, after a lobby group urged investors to vote against his "excessive remuneration" at the company's annual general meeting.

CtW Investment, a lobbyist for U.S. pension funds, slammed Mason's £4.3 million (U.S. $6.364 million) salary and bonuses last year, saying it was a pay deal that "no reasonable analysis of Fresh & Easy's performance could justify."

The start-up U.S. business posted a £165 million (U.S. $244.2 million) loss. CtW said Tesco failed to link executive pay and performance. Tesco replied that it was disappointed with the criticism of Mason and the speed of development of the Fresh & Easy chain.

"The performance bonuses for Tim Mason reflect the progress he has made in developing the Fresh & Easy business despite the severe economic conditions, which has meant a slower than planned opening program," the company responded. "The stores we have open remain very popular. Customer feedback has been fantastic, customer numbers are growing strongly, basket size is increasing and we are becoming a major retail player -- already the 75th largest retailer in the U.S."

Mason has just been promoted to deputy chief executive of the whole group following veteran chief executive Sir Terry Leahy's decision to stand down next March.

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