In the ring of cities that orbits Columbus, Ohio, Dublin occupies the northwest corner, a short 25-minute drive from the state’s capital. Among its other claims to fame, it’s where The Wendy’s Co. (WEN) has its corporate headquarters. And there are close to a million reasons why it may soon become “Home Sweet Home” for another Wendy’s executive – which doesn’t seem like it ought to be a big deal – but apparently it is.
As part of its plan to jettison the struggling Arby’s brand, Wendy’s decided to designate Dublin, Ohio as its “new Company headquarters.” Prior to that, HQ had been in Atlanta, where Arby’s was based. But the move wasn’t universally popular within the executive ranks. In fact, at least a couple of top executives invoked the “triggering event” clause of their employment agreements, claiming that they were justified in leaving the company (with lots of cash in hand) since their agreements promised they wouldn’t have to work outside the Atlanta greater metropolitan area. As we footnoted a year ago, Wendy’s offered one executive a cash retention bonus of $500,000 to move to Ohio for six months, and (as we footnoted last November) it paid millions more in termination costs when its former president and CEO, Roland Smith, refused to move to Ohio and resigned instead.
But Wendy’s has really sweetened the pot for Darrell van Ligten, President of the International division, who joined the company in a different capacity in February 2009. In the March 23, 2012 letter it sent to van Ligten, Exhibit 10.2 to the 10-Q it filed yesterday, it offered him a lump sum payment of $850,000 if he ignores the triggering event clause of his employment letter agreement and moves to Dublin, Ohio on or before June 1, 2012. He does have to stay for two years after he gets there; if he leaves Wendy’s before then, he has to repay a prorated amount. In addition, he also gets some assurance that Wendy’s won’t fire him precipitously and leave him stranded in the Buckeye State:
If the Company terminates your employment without cause (as that term is defined in the January, 28, 2009 letter agreement) within two years of your receiving your cash award, the Company agrees to provide you relocation, with benefits equal to the current Company policy, to Atlanta as well as any other benefits or payments you are entitled to under the January 28, 2009 letter agreement.”
As far as one can tell from the city’s website, Dublin, Ohio looks like a nice place to live, with about 41,325 people, 740 acres of parkland, and more than 3,000 businesses. Living up to its name, it throws nice bashes for St. Patrick’s Day and its annual Irish Festival, as well as a handful of other celebrations throughout the year. And since Dublin’s City Profile indicates that the average cost of a home (in 2005) was $347,633, Wendy’s is essentially making it easy for van Ligten to buy some above-average digs for the next two years, all on the company’s dime.
Heck, for $850,000, we’d probably all consider moving to Ohio for a couple of years.