Daily Archives: November 19, 2008

Executive pay and values

Well, I guess Rick Wagoner, GM’s chief, is now the world’s wealthiest panhandler. Kind of sad really to see him and the heads of Ford, Chrysler and the UAW sitting before members of the Senate yesterday with nothing to offer other than a tin cup and a prayer. According to The New York Times, Wagoner received $24 million a year in both 2006 and 2007 in total compensation from the now nearly bankrupt automaker. Ho-hum. No one gets his or her shorts in a knot over those kind of numbers these days.

And I wonder what Ron Gettelfinger, UAW chief, really thinks about Wagoner, Nardelli, Mulally, et al? Or how he responds to the point that Andrew Ross Sorkin (and echoed by many others) made in the NYT yesterday: “Bankruptcy would give the G.M. enormous leverage with its debt holders — and perhaps more important, with the U.A.W., whose gold-plated benefits are one reason G.M. is no longer competitive. A bankruptcy filing would also give G.M. cover to close plants, rid itself of unprofitable brands and shed dealerships.”

And oh by the way — redo the pensions, wages and benefits for employees and retirees. That may be necessary. But it doesn’t appear that Wagoner — who has been behind the wheel as the car crashed into the wall — is planning to go anywhere or give up anything. Quote his PR guy, Tony Cervone:

“A solid management team is the most important thing you need in the time of a crisis,” Mr. Cervone said.

Well that would certainly help. And it might help if the management team had some integrity and personal values as well. Somebody needs to take some ownership for this debacle — a sense of responsibility — and I’m not sure that should be the maintenance guy at Lordstown.

Here’s a few other loosely related points:

  • Ohio used to be a state. But I saw U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown identified in a story about the auto bailout in the Akron Beacon Journal this morning as D-Lorain. Oh well.
  • Since no one cares about the compensation of the corporate chiefs any more, how about the big bucks the guys and gals are getting who head our colleges and universities? “Median pay and benefits for presidents of public institutions rose 7.6 percent in 2007-8, to $427,400, The Chronicle [of Higher Education] said. Over a five-year period, the public universities’ median compensation rose 36 percent, compared with 19 percent at private institutions.” I guess this will be the next bailout. And I was going to opine about Lestor Lefton. But I figure that anyone who is forced to attend every Kent State home football game deserves every cent he can squeeze out of the university’s board. Excellence in Action.
  • And finally, The New York Times opines that LeBron James is going to head to the Big Apple in 2010 for $200 million or so. LeBron, c’mon. Money ain’t everything. Well, on second thought — maybe you can rescue GM. Wagoner played basketball at Duke. But it doesn’t look like he can.