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GM’s Wagoner Gets Pension, but That’s All

April 2, 2009
Related Topics: Global Business Issues, Retirement/Pensions, Latest News
Ousted CEO Rick Wagoner left General Motors with a $22.1 million pension, but that pales compared with what he could have received if GM were in better financial shape.

As of the end of 2008, Wagoner had 4.7 million unexercised stock options, giving him the right to purchase GM shares at prices ranging from $20.90 to $75.50.

In happier times, they could have netted Wagoner a tidy sum. When he became CEO in 2000, GM’s stock price was about $70 a share, and the peak price that year was $93.62.

But with the stock at less than $3 a share lately, the options aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on.

“They’re all out of the money and worthless,” said Alexander Cwirko-Godycki, research manager for Equilar Inc., an executive compensation research firm. “They represented a significant part of his pay package over the years.”

Equilar found that in Wagoner’s 17 years as a senior executive, he earned about $9 million by exercising stock options.

In addition, federal bailout restrictions prevented GM from paying Wagoner severance.

Had those restrictions not been in place, the board would have had the discretion to award as much as $17.1 million in severance, Cwirko-Godycki said.

In addition to his pension benefits, Wagoner had $534,627 worth of deferred compensation in a plan similar to a 401(k).

Filed by Leslie J. Allen of Automotive News, a sister publication of Workforce Management. To comment, e-mail

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