St. Anthony: 2013 was another good year for CEOs

It is fair to say that the CEOs of Minnesota-based public companies are doing OK, as chronicled in today’s annual Star Tribune Executive Compensation survey.

“The executive compensation system is not set up to slow the growth of executive compensation,” quipped Gary Hewitt, a veteran compensation-and-governance analyst and research director at GMI Ratings, which advises institutional investors. “The growth of equity-based compensation, the rising stock market and compensation consultants who rely on peer-group comparisons … it all ends up having a ratchet-upward effect.”

Sure can’t say that for the stagnant wages of the working stiffs over the last generation, who also increasingly must fund their own retirements.

“The average base salary of CEOs is about $1 million, and that’s about 20 times the average household income of America,” Hewitt added. “That gap has grown.”

Three Minnesota financial services executives not included in today’s Star Tribune 100 executive compensation sweepstakes had pretty good paydays in 2013, a good year for the insurance-and-investment industries. These folks do not run publicly held companies, but they oversee three of the largest financial complexes in the state.

According to documents filed with the Minnesota Department of Commerce, the soon-retiring CEO Bob Senkler of Securian Financial earned $4.35 million in total compensation last year. Walter White of Allianz Life North America was paid $2.9 million. And Brad Hewitt at Thrivent Financial made $2.3 million.

Cargill sweet on Fallon

Cargill, which markets very little of its considerable business portfolio directly to consumers, has retained the Minneapolis ad agency Fallon as its agency of record to handle social media duties for Truvia, Cargill’s entry into the sugar substitute arena, where it is known as a “packet sweetener.”

Fallon will promote Truvia’s zero-calorie brand through social channels including Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook and Twitter. It is the first time the two venerable companies have worked together.

“Fallon is the ideal creative partner to help us be prolific at storytelling through social content,” said Brian Marx, Truvia’s digital marketing manager.

Truvia is second only to Splenda in the sugar substitute category with a 13 percent market share as of last year. Truvia is an organic sugar substitute made from the leaves of the stevia plant.

The overarching sweetener battle is between two taxpayer-subsidized behemoths: corn syrup producers vs. sugar beet growers and processors.


Drone Law Arrives

The Eden Prairie law firm of Fafinski Mark & Johnson has created a practice group for unmanned aircraft systems, or drones, in anticipation of commercial use of the technology.

“The usefulness for drones is just as creative as the human mind,” said Donald Chance Mark Jr., a seasoned aviation attorney and head of the new practice group. He said the future of drone technology ranges from spraying crops to shooting movies.

The holdup for now is the lack of regulations for commercial use from the Federal Aviation Administration. Missing are rules to govern privacy, security and safety issues, Mark said.


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