Thursday, August 14, 2003

The board of directors at Heinz foods had a problem:

More than half of [CEO William] Johnson's 2003 [compensation] package ? $4.74 million in cash and restricted shares ? was a bonus for last year. That reward did not reflect the performance of Heinz stock, whose price fell about 20 percent during the fiscal year, or about double the decline of its peer group of packaged-foods companies.

The solution? Say it was a bonus for a supposedly lucrative deal involving Del Monte, and then tout the deal:

To buttress their argument, Heinz executives devised a chart for the proxy to show investor enthusiasm for the spinoff. But even though the transaction was not completed until Dec. 20, they chose Oct. 31 as a starting point because, a Heinz spokesman said, that was when investors accepted that the deal would happen. And even though the fiscal year ended in April, they chose June 30 as an end point because, another spokesman said, they wanted to present as up-to-date a picture as possible. During that eight-month stretch, Heinz stock rose 13.8 percent, to $32.98 from $28.97. Had they chosen instead the period from the close of the deal to the end of the fiscal year, the results would have been quite different: during that period, the stock fell 4.8 percent, to $29.88 from $31.40.

A while ago, I had a bit of a tiff with a wingnut who was trying to argue that Dubya brought business values to government. But if the businesses he had in mind were ones like these, he's got a case.


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