By Daniel Hunter

The boss of advertising giant WPP is set to receive a massive £40 million pay package this year, after being given £36 million worth of free shares.

Sir Martin Sorrell is one of 17 WPP senior executives that qualify for the company's controversial incentive plan, covering 2010-2015.

The incentive allows the 17 executives to buy shares and receive up to five times that number for free. It is a long-term bonus system that shareholders voted to scrap in 2012.

The £36m shares come on top of his basic salary of £1.1m and expected bonus of more than £4m. Full details of Mr Sorrell's pay will be revealed by WPP in April. It is likely to cause a huge debate at the company's Annual General Meeting (AGM) in June.

Philip Lander, chairman of WPP, said: “This senior management incentive compensation plan required substantial personal, long-term investment by the participants, exceptional corporate performance over five years, and was approved by an 83% supporting vote of share owners.”

Last week WPP reported record profits.

"This is a dangerously excessive amount of money," said Luke Hildyard, deputy director of the High Pay Centre.

"It is vital fund managers hold WPP to account when they get a chance to vote on this award on behalf of company shareholders."