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A warm welcome at Choice Hotels…

It must be nice to get a raise before you even start your job. Congratulations to Stephen P. Joyce, who received one the day before his official arrival at Choice Hotels International (CHH).

Back in March, Choice announced that Joyce would become President and COO starting May 1. (He’ll ascend in October to the CEO post, at which point current CEO Chuck Ledsinger will become Vice Chairman.) At the time of the announcement, Choice and Joyce – gotta love an executive who rhymes with his company – signed this employment agreement.

On the eve of Joyce’s start date, Choice sweetened his deal. (Here’s the amended and restated agreement, dated April 30.) The revised contract bumped up a couple of Joyce’s initial equity awards: He’ll now get nearly a million extra bucks worth of restricted stock ($2.3M instead of $1.3M), and a stock option award valued at $2.8M instead of $2.5M.

While Joyce’s contract was up on my screen, I peeked at the perks section. Joyce’s perks under the contract (there are additional perks under a “flexible perquisites program” discussed in the last proxy) track the ones current CEO Ledsinger has: a car allowance, membership at a dining and/or recreational club, and 25 hours a year of personal travel on company aircraft. However, Joyce goes the old CEO one better. He’s “fully grossed up” for all these perks, including the air travel, while Ledsinger has to pay his own taxes on personal jet-setting.

Of course, Joyce is also eligible for the “Stay at Choice” program Michelle recently footnoted, which invites directors to lodge at Choice’s humble hotel chains. As Michelle pointed out, this perk hasn’t been wildly popular. We shall see whether or not Joyce, a former Marriott executive, feels that sleeping at a Comfort Inn is out of his comfort zone.