3/5/2013 4:40 PM ET|
A sweet $200 million deal for Heinz CEO Johnson?
The chief executive of the ketchup giant could get a handsome exit award, which would be among the largest CEO payouts ever.
According to The Wall Street Journal, Johnson is eligible for an exit package worth more than $200 million from the Pittsburgh-based ketchup giant once its $28 billion sale to Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.A) and 3G Capital, a Brazilian private equity firm, closes. That includes $99.7 million in Heinz shares, a $56 million "golden parachute" and $57 million in pension and deferred compensation. A Heinz spokesman tells MSN Money that no decision has been made about the future of Johnson or any other members of Heinz's management team.
Odds are, though, that Johnson will pursue other career opportunities. Acquirers of companies often prefer to install their own CEOs once deals are completed. 3G named a new CEO of Burger King (BKW) after it acquired the fast-food giant in 2010. Buffett, though, tries to keep leadership teams of companies that he acquires and prides himself on not being a micromanager. Still, some CEOs may not be interested in having a boss, even someone as well regarded as the Oracle of Omaha.
Johnson's payout would be among the 10 largest ever given a U.S. CEO and, according to Heinz, is well-deserved. The CEO has delivered total shareholder returns of 177% since 2006, a company spokesperson told the Journal. The $72.50-per-share deal is a 20% premium above the stock price on the day before it was announced.
Heinz certainly wasn't forced to sell itself. It has a commanding 60% share of the U.S. ketchup market, according to CNBC. That's remarkable for any product, let alone one that has been around since 1876. Heinz provides ketchup to both Burger King and its rival McDonald's (MCD). It also has a strong position in emerging markets such as Latin America and China. Indeed, Heinz also has the top one or two products in 50 countries.
--Jonathan Berr is long McDonald's. Follow him on Twitter @jdberr.
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