Because we're worth it - Lowy defends handsome salaries

Westfield Group's founder and non-executive chairman, Frank Lowy, on Wednesday faced a feisty annual meeting where about 9 per cent of shareholders voted against his re-election to the board.

Westfield Group's founder and non-executive chairman, Frank Lowy, on Wednesday faced a feisty annual meeting where about 9 per cent of shareholders voted against his re-election to the board.

Mr Lowy said he did not know who voted against him, before pointing out that "90.64 per cent" of shareholders voted in his favour.

He also fended off questions about his salary and that of his sons, Peter and Steven Lowy, who are Westfield's co-chief executives.

In discussions of the remuneration report, which was passed by a vote of 97.73 per cent, Mr Lowy said he should be paid for doing his job.

"Issues of personal wealth, whether it is derived from Westfield or any other source, should not be and are not relevant to the remuneration committee or the board in determining the level of remuneration paid for any executive," Mr Lowy said. "The only relevant considerations are your role in the company and how well you are performing."

For the 2012 year, Steven Lowy had a total package of $9.4 million, while Peter Lowy, who runs the company's US operations, made $US8.9 million. Frank Lowy, as non-executive chairman, received a base salary of $750,000.

Mr Lowy told the 200-strong audience at the Intercontinental Hotel in Sydney: "Others may choose to waive their right to remuneration based on their own circumstances - as a matter of principle I do not."

Before the meeting, the Australian Shareholders Association took the Westfield directors to task, saying the projected distribution on the Lowy family shares in the company for the 2013 year would be $91.6 million.

"The family does not need to continue drawing excessive remuneration, whether as executive directors or as the non-executive chairman," the ASA said.

Mr Lowy said that while he rarely spoke for his sons, "on this occasion I can assure you that this is the only basis on which we are prepared to continue to provide our services to the group".

Outgoing remuneration committee chairman Fred Hilmer, who retired from the board at the meeting, said the "board believes that this management structure ... is serving us well and provides the best available resource to drive the company through the next phase".

After the meeting, Steven and Peter Lowy said there were signs of sustained growth in the US economy and while Australian retailing remained flat, the macro issues were strong.

Westfield reaffirmed its funds from operations forecast for the 2013 year of 66.5¢ and a distribution forecast of 51¢, a rise of 3 per cent on the 2012 year.

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