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Blyth exec departs suddenly, but with big bucks…

We’ve never been fans of those home-based parties, where “friends” invite you over to buy overpriced stuff that you don’t really need. When we read the 8-K that Blyth, Inc. (BTH) – the “home expressions company” that sells products under 9 different brands, including PartyLite_© – filed on Jan. 6, it brought to mind one such experience that resulted in a lighter wallet in exchange for a tiny box of candles. Of course, we’re sure that the party hosts aren’t getting rich enough to retire any time soon, but it may be a different story for one of PartyLite’s departing executives.

The 8-K disclosed that Anne M. Butler, who had been serving as the President of PartyLite Worldwide (and a vice president of Blyth), resigned suddenly on December 30, 2011. Although she ceased serving as PartyLite’s top officer that day, something that always makes us think twice about what’s really going on, she agreed to hang around as an employee through January 16, according to the Separation Agreement and Release that was filed as an attachment to the 8-K.

Butler, who has been with PartyLite in one job or another since 1999, is leaving with $1.36 million in separation payments, plus Blyth agreed to accelerate the vesting process on her otherwise-unvested restricted stock units and performance based cash awards. According to the proxy filed in April, 2011, Butler’s unvested equity interests as of January 31, 2011 were worth $436,892. She’s also going to get “certain other benefits” that aren’t spelled out in the 8-K, but which the proxy says could include up to two years of health insurance coverage and, if applicable, up to $50,000 in outplacement assistance expenses (an amount that is higher than most outplacement allowances we’ve seen; however, as stated before, the 8-K doesn’t say whether Butler will get this or not).

The company doesn’t explain why Butler left, but the Separation Agreement states that the parties agreed that it would be treated as a “resignation for ‘Good Reason’.” Now, that could mean that there was really a good reason for Butler to pack up her things and leave, or the parties could have just come to that agreement so that Butler would get more money on her way out the door. We don’t know, since the filing doesn’t say. There is one other clue – a press release published January 4 – that includes a rather standard statement from Blyth’s Chairman of the Board and CEO, Robert Goergen, saying that he “support[s] [Butler’s] desire to transition to additional entrepreneurial activities and the next phase of her life.” Goergen’s son, Robert B. Goergen, Jr., agreed to fill in while an executive search firm looks for Butler’s successor.

Butler agreed to give Blyth a General Release in exchange for the money, and she also promised to give back the company’s “computer hardware and software, blackberries, pagers, cell phones, other electronic equipment, keys, credit cards,…” In doing so, Blyth and Butler are bucking the current fad that we noticed last summer of letting executives keep their electronic gadgets when they leave or are shown the door (a trend that continues today, as we noted in this recent post). But maybe Butler’s just taking a smarter approach by negotiating for more money instead of the gadgets, knowing that $1.36 million is enough to buy a truckload of iPads, should she want them.

Image source: PartyLite website

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