$56M Golden Parachute Protects Heinz CEO if Buffett Fires Him

Tuesday, 05 Mar 2013 11:35 AM

By Alexandra Ward

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H.J. Heinz Co. CEO William Johnson is eligible for a $56 million golden parachute should he be fired by the company's new owners, who happen to include investing guru Warran Buffett.

As part of the food industry's most expensive acquisition ever, Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway and 3G Capital announced last month it was buying the Pittsburgh-based ketchup maker as part of a $23.3 billion deal. The company also makes Classico spaghetti sauces, Ore-Ida potatoes, and Smart Ones frozen meals.

The deal would entitle Johnson to $40 million if he walks away whenever he chooses, but would tack on an additional $16 million if Heinz' new owners let him go. The CEO is also in line for a payout of $99.7 million in vested stock and $57 million in deferred compensation benefits that he accrued over his 30-year career with Heinz. That means he could walk away with a total of $212.7 million.

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Representatives from Heinz and 3G Capital, the investment firm that bought Burger King in 2010, declined to say whether management changes or layoffs were in store.

H.J. Heinz Co. was founded by Henry John Heinz and his neighbor L. Clarence Noble in 1869. Its first product was grated horseradish, followed by the first ketchup, which was introduced in 1876. Johnson has been president and CEO of Heinz for the last 15 years.

John Kerry's wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, was previously married to Henry John Heinz III, an heir to the company. Heinz Kerry currently serves as the chair of the Heinz Endowments and the Heinz Family Philanthropies, organizations devoted to disbursing money to social and environmental causes.

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Heinz Chief Financial Officer Arthur Winkleblack is also entitled to a golden parachute of $15.5 million if he's let go from the company, according to a regulatory filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. David Moran, CEO of the company's Europe branch, would also get a $15.5 golden parachute.

Related stories:

Berkshire on Hunt for More Heinz-like Deals

SEC Begins Insider-Trading Probe on Heinz Stock

Teresa Heinz Still Shunning Kerry Name

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