THE chairman of York-headquartered housebuilding giant Persimmon has apologised "unreservedly" over the company's handling of executive pay as shareholders rebel against its remuneration report.

Nigel Mills, chairman on an interim basis at Persimmon, said at the company's annual general meeting at York Racecourse this afternoon that the debacle was a matter of "profound regret".

It comes after boss Jeff Fairburn's pay packet sparked outrage among politicians and shareholders when it neared £75 million.

Executive pay in Persimmon's remuneration report was nudged through this afternoon in a vote that saw 48.5 per cent of voting shareholders refuse the proposals, and 30.9 per cent abstain.

Mr Mills said: "Although the Remuneration Report was passed at today’s AGM, we recognise that a substantial number of shareholders either voted against the resolution or abstained.

"In recent months we have engaged extensively with a large number of shareholders, carefully listened to their views and valued their engagement. But we must now look to put this issue behind us and to enable the business to be recognised once again for its exceptional performance and for the central role it is playing in building the houses that Britain so badly needs."

Earlier this year, shareholders and politicians united to condemn what would have been an even higher £100 million payout, until Mr Fairburn voluntarily moved to calm the furore by handing back £25 million in bonuses.

Mr Mills said the row has overshadowed the group's stellar performance.

He also pointed out that shareholders voted through the pay deal in 2012 and that no-one could have predicted the "performance of the business would be so good over such a long period".