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.

By Jonathan Berr Mar 5, 2013 12:40PM
Heinz Company Chairman, President and CEO William R. Johnson during a news conference in Pittsburgh, Penn. on February 14, 2013 (© Jason Cohn/Newscom/Reuters)Heinz (HNZ) CEO William Johnson may prove Woody Allen's claim that "80 percent of success is showing up" is an apt way to describe corporate America.

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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Mar 5, 2013 2:19PM
Corporate America.....a big pramid scheme......NOBODY deserves payouts like that!!
Mar 5, 2013 1:58PM
Has this got anything with Kerry and his wife? He looks like a greedy SOB.
Mar 5, 2013 2:43PM
Disgusting what is wrong with this corporate thinking, who other than these overpaid executives gets a golden parachute. The money should stay in the company buy this fool a watch and send him packing.
Mar 5, 2013 3:42PM
This is exactly why we are in trouble !!  The CEO's of america are raping their workers everyday. I think it is time for the american workers  ALL to go on  strike !!   Lets see if these big shots can make millions without us !!!!  Most of them probably dont even know what the company does!!!
Mar 5, 2013 3:21PM
goood for him he earned phuck the 47% non workn ****s
Mar 5, 2013 8:34PM
That's what he gets for polluting heinzs foods w cornsyrup instead of naturally grown food. Tax Him 50%.
Mar 6, 2013 1:06AM
Obscene hardly describes the nonsensical value placed on his skill set.  Time to vote with my pocketbook ... no more Heinz products for me, or else I'd be complicit in supporting it.
Mar 5, 2013 3:51PM
I bet he stays...and makes a lot more money going forward.  Get over it you greedy folks and go figure out your own thing to make money.  We are still free to do that to some degree.  Still the best game on planet Earth is right here in the US of A. 
Mar 5, 2013 10:50PM

Heinz ketchup is really the best.  Good for him.  And for all those haters, why didn't you work your way up to the head of a corporate giant?  Don't be mad at him.  That's what the job pays, he did the job - so he gets the money.  I am sure he had a strategy to get to the top and it paid off.  There's nothing wrong with being rich.  He did a great job and made a lot of money for a lot of people.  Running a company is hard work and a company that makes that much money should pay the top man for what he's done. 

Mar 5, 2013 1:55PM
what are you gonna do..It is the best tasting ketchup in the world.Pay the man., and I`ll still keep buying it.
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