Sorrell not faring too badly in this recession

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On this first-anniversary weekend of the collapse of Lehman Brothers, which triggered the worst economic crisis in a generation, the Guardian reminds us that some have felt the pain a whole lot less than the rest of us over the past year. In its annual salary round-up, the U.K. paper reports that even as FTSE 100 companies were laying off tens of thousands of staffers and their stock prices lost a third of their value, the people running these companies saw their basic salaries rise 10 percent, with full- and part-time directors of those businesses sharing a windfall of more than $1.65 billion. WPP Group chief Sir Martin Sorrell is a regular top performer in the survey, but even he took a hit last year, dropping from the No. 1 most-highly-compensated exec in the U.K. to No. 4. The 64-year-old, who has had to lay off an estimated 7,200 staffers in the wake of  cutbacks from marketers, pocketed $33 million in 2008, bringing his five-year payday to a total of more than $166 million. (Sorrell, a pioneer in share-price performance scheme payouts, earned $39 million in 2007 and $86 million in 2005.) For investors in WPP Group's American Depository Receipts, returns over the past five years have been decidedly less than lucrative: The ADRs have declined 40 percent from $49.30 on Dec. 31, 2003 to $29.59 on the same day last year.

—Posted by Noreen O'Leary