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All I want for Christmas is a golden parachute

Guess who just might get it? John Alm, who announced last week that he is stepping down January 1, 2006 from the CEO post at Coca-Cola Enterprises ((CCE)). The 8-K and accompanying press release were, as usual, sweet but short on details.

However, a look back at CCE’s filings may have made Alm’s departure anything but surprising. Check out this exhibit to an 8-K filing that conveniently coincided with (and was likely overshadowed by) the release of third-quarter earnings announcement on Oct. 27.

The exhibit, an updated severance agreement, provided for payments equal to 24 months of salary and 2 “annual bonus awards” for employees with greater than 10 years of service. The exhibit also noted that:

“An officer may also receive a payment equal to the annual bonus that would have been payable for the year of termination, which amount shall be based on actual performance results and prorated for his or her actual period of service during such year.”

That means Alm, a long-time CCE employee, is entitled to 24 months’ of salary ($950,000 x 2) plus twice a bonus that, based on last year’s proxy, would have been about $750k. Since he’s not leaving until January 1, 2006, he’s also entitled to the full 2005 bonus. Add it all up — 950 + 950 +750 + 750 +750 — and Alm’s got a $4.15 million payout to start the new year.

That’s particularly disturbing when the stock fell 12% during Alm’s tenure. The stock jumped 4% on December 1, the day the resignation was announced.