Choice’s choice for Vice Chairman…

June 30, 2008

Late Thursday, Choice Hotels (CHH), which we’ve footnoted twice since April, announced that it was accelerating its succession plan so that Stephen Joyce (whose appointment Wendy footnoted here) would take over as CEO on June 26. Meanwhile, former CEO Charles Ledsinger Jr. would become vice chairman.

While the release mentioned in passing an after-tax accounting charge of $3.5 million to $4 million related to the executive moves, Choice waited until late Friday to file the 8K with the details of Ledsinger’s separation and consulting agreement.

As vice chairman, Ledsinger is not expected to exceed “20 percent of his prior work schedule” — one of the reasons I once described the job as being the greatest in business. Despite the sharp reduction in responsibilities — and Ledsinger’s ability to take on another job since he’ll now have a lot more time on his hands — he’ll continue to collect the same salary (and bonus and perks) as he did when he was presumably working full-time through the end of next year.

Once that gig ends, he’ll become a consultant through October 2013, working up to 5 hours a week, according to that agreement filed in the 8K. Oddly enough, the consulting contract doesn’t appear to pay Ledsinger, other than in office space, an assistant, and membership in the Avenel Golf Club, which he’ll have to pay for himself. There’s also the promise of health benefits for Ledsigner and his wife through 2015.

At $26.75, Choice’s stock is trading near its 52-week low and has lost nearly 20 percent so far this year. When we first questioned some of Choice’s choices, the stock was trading just under $35.

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