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Continued: Lee Schafer: General Mills CEO pay, then & now

  • Article by: LEE SCHAFER , Star Tribune
  • Last update: July 28, 2013 - 9:14 AM

“Well, the company is bigger,” Davis replied.

It’s not spelled out just why Atwater got no 1995 bonus, but there’s no mystery why Powell is getting paid what he is.

The report of the 1995 compensation committee came to a little over 4,000 words. The fiscal 2012 compensation section ran to 13,720 words, and “almost everything that’s in there is in there because it’s required,” Davis said. “In 13,000 words you can explain a lot.”

Much of it discusses the CEO’s pay at General Mills compared with CEOs at 13 other big consumer packaged-goods companies. Any mom-and-pop investor would have to conclude after spending an hour with the proxy statement that what General Mills really wants is to have its CEO better paid that half of his peers but not paid so well he lands in the top quarter.

One could look at that discussion of a peer group in a couple of different ways. One is that the market for CEO talent must be functioning well.

The other view is what seems to matter when setting CEO pay, which is roughly matching what other CEOs have managed to wring from their boards. So the level of compensation will keep climbing until the rest of us acquire pitchforks and lanterns from Mills Fleet Farm and take direct action.

The disclosure rules also produce tidbits like this in the 2012 proxy: Ken Powell’s personal travel on the company came to $80,075.

According to a federal registry, General Mills has two very nice jets, Cessna Citation 750s. It’s probably another sign of good practices that the company won’t let Powell run over $100,000 in expense for personal use of these aircraft.

But $80,000 happens to exceed the income of 61 percent of the households in the Twin Cities.

It would be interesting to know if Atwater flew commercial when he went on vacation. • 612-673-4302

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