A short-but-lucrative stint at Foster Wheeler…

March 15, 2011

Robert Flexon had been chief executive of Foster Wheeler AG (FWLT) for less than five months last year when he left the post (and the company’s Swiss headquarters) to return to the United States. But he certainly didn’t leave empty handed, according to a preliminary proxy the company filed yesterday.

Besides his regular compensation (a base salary of $700,000 per year through May 31, and $945,000 per year starting June 1; a bonus of $150,000; stock awards of nearly $1.246 million; and option awards of more than $1.489 million), Flexon got $5,311,246 in “Other” compensation during 2010.

Often, that much “Other” compensation means that an executive got a hefty severance payment. But the footnotes explain that Flexon got a separation payment and additional money, as well. For example, Foster Wheeler paid Flexon more than $1.096 million as a “living, relocation and other assignment allowance” after the executive moved his family to Switzerland last June. He also got a $20,415 car allowance, and a $14,700 match on his employee 401(k) contribution.

By subtracting those sums and $8,000 for outplacement assistance from his total “Other” compensation, it appears that Flexon got approximately $4.171 million as a separation payment, which the proxy notes was a “termination without cause under his employment agreement.” On his way out the door, Foster Wheeler paid Flexon for 24 months of salary continuation, an amount equal to twice his short-term incentive bonus, enough money so that he could pay the employee’s share of any health and welfare benefits for 24 months, two years of additional age and service credit under any pension plans, and enough to pay for Flexon and his family to move back to the United States (the proxy doesn’t say whether it cost as much to move him back to the States as it did to move him to Switzerland).

Flexon stepped into the CEO post on June 1, 2010 as part of a succession plan referenced in this May, 2010 8-K and attached employment agreement. It was definitely a step up for him; he had been serving as president and CEO of Foster Wheeler USA Corporation, one of the engineering and construction services company’s subsidiaries.

But by October, Foster Wheeler’s former CEO and non-executive Chairman, Ray Milchovich, (whom we wrote about in this post almost a year ago… one of several written about Foster Wheeler last year) supposedly said that Flexon was “not a good fit” and he did not believe that “Flexon’s leadership abilities were a good match with the prevailing culture at Foster Wheeler.” Flexon stepped down as CEO on Oct. 22 and later resigned as a director on Nov. 9, 2010.

Flexon appears to have landed on his feet rather well, though. Last month, UGI Corporation (UGI) hired Flexon as its new CFO. He’s starting a new chapter in his career, with a lot more money in the bank than he had at this time last year.

Image source: dennis via flickr

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