Stocks can be a boon for pay

At least, that’s one way to look at the roughly $90.5 million windfall that 10 of Georgia’s best-paid chief executives have reaped with the help of fortuitously timed stock and option grants last year.

The $90.5 million — which could be an underestimate because it doesn’t take into account part of the future growth value of the options — is the tally, as of Friday’s market close, of stock and option grants that CEOs at some of Georgia’s largest public corporations got last year as part of their pay.

Because the executives got most of their stock-related grants in February and March last year — just as the stock market reached its deepest lows in more than a decade — they got large numbers of shares and options, and at bargain prices.

The result: Most top-paid CEOs’ 2009 stock and option grants more than doubled in value in just over a year, effectively giving them huge raises.

Among the most richly rewarded:

● Coca-Cola Enterprises CEO John F. Brock: $12.3 million.

● Delta Air Lines CEO Richard Anderson: $12.1 million.

● Newell Rubbermaid CEO Mark D. Ketchum: $10.2 million.

● UPS CEO D. Scott Davis: $9.9 million.

● Coca-Cola Co. CEO Muhtar Kent: $9.4 million

● Georgia Gulf CEO Paul D. Carrico: $9.3 million.

The totals exclude the value of stock and option awards from earlier years.

Current values for the 2009 award also are likely conservative because they’re based on what executives would reap if they cashed out their options now. Usually, market values of options are higher than their immediate cash-out values because they typically allow the executives to benefit from rising stock prices for up to 10 years.

To be sure, the corporate chiefs’ holdings granted in earlier years took a drubbing during the recent bear market. Also, most executives couldn’t cash out now because they don’t get full ownership of their shares and options unless they meet certain performance targets and until a few years after they’re granted.

For instance, NCR Corp. CEO William Nuti forfeited about 60 percent of the stock award he would have gotten last year because the company lost money. On the other hand, a restriction that blocked Delta Air Lines CEO Richard Anderson from receiving a cash bonus last year turned out to be a blessing in disguise.

He didn’t get a cash bonus because the airline’s employees didn’t get profit-sharing checks. Instead, Anderson got restricted shares last January that Delta then valued at $6.6 million, although they still come with some strings attached.

In the meantime, however, the shares’ value has climbed to more than $12 million.

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