Ten CEOs with the Largest Stock Option Grants: $230 Million In Compensation

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The following are the ten CEOs who received the largest stock option grants in 2009. Together, they enjoyed gains which totaled $230 million based on their value at the end of May. The data, tracked by The Corporate Library, has deemed them “mega-grants,” defined as any single grant that exceeds 500,000 options.

The appreciation of the options is an impressive amount. Some of the CEOs deserve the rewards more than others. Each compensation number is the difference between the value of the grant when it was received and its value at the end of May 2010.

The CEOs who received these grants, along with their dollar value as of May 24, 2010 are:

Mel Karmazin of Sirius XM Radio (NASDAQ: SIRI), whose 120 million options were worth $69.6 million;

Allan Mulally of Ford Motor (NYSE: F), whose 5 million options were worth $45.2 million;

Larry Ellison, founder and CEO of Oracle (NASDAQ: ORCL), whose 7 million options were worth $10.9 million;

Howard Schultz, founder and CEO of Starbucks (NASDAQ: SBUX), whose grant of 2.7 million options was worth $44.6 million;

Anthony Ryan of MoneyGram International (NYSE: MGI), whose 8 million options were worth $7.4 million;

Trevor Fetter of Tenet Heathcare (NYSE: THC), whose 5.5 million options were worth $24.2 million;

Kenneth Campbell the head of Standard Pacific (NYSE: SPF), who made $1.7 from 3 million options;

Eugene Isenberg of Nabor Industries (NYSE: NBR), who received 3 million options that were worth $21.6 million,

Stephen Berkowitz of Move, Inc (NASDAQ: MOVE),  whose 3 million options were worth $1.1 million,

and Dan Hesse of Sprint-Nextel (NYSE: S), who made $3.5 million from 3 million options.

To start, CEOs who made almost nothing from their grants should not be criticized. Neither should their board be for granting them options. These CEOs include the heads of Standard Pacific and Move, Inc.

Dan Hesse of Sprint-Nextel made only $3.5 million in appreciation on his grant. Sprint is in poor shape, and if its new 4G Wimax initiative does not work the company’s future is in doubt. Hesse may have caused some of the company’s problems, but he also inherited a number of them.

There should be a debate over whether extremely wealthy founders like Howard Schultz of Starbucks or Larry Ellison of Oracle should be given grants at all. Their huge ownership of stock in their companies is performance incentive enough. Nevertheless, each made very significant amounts on the value of the grants they received last year. In the case of Schultz, he has done a great deal to improve the coffee company’s prospects.

Mel Karmazin of XM Sirius also deserves his award, considering his company was at death’ s door when he joined. Karmazin arranged financing that salvaged the firm’s prospects. The stock has a 52-week low of $.40 and now trades at $.96, but was below $.10 when it appeared that bankruptcy was imminent.

Tenet Healthcare also did relatively well, but Fetter’s $24 million benefit might be excessive. The stock has outperformed the market, though, up 28% over a period when the DJIA is up only 12%.

It would be very hard for anyone on Wall Street to argue against the award received by Alan Mulally. Ford was in deep trouble when he joined, due in part to mismanagement and in part because of the economy. He kept the firm out of Chapter 11 while its rivals GM and Chrysler filed for bankruptcy. Ford’s financial results have been unusually strong over the last year.

Isenberg of Nabor is the one CEO who does not deserve his significant options profit. The company’s stock is up only 8% in the last year and has underperformed the DJIA.

Douglas A. McIntyre