Could there be another frugal CEO out there?

March 31, 2011

Here at footnoted, we’re so used to the oversized perks that CEOs and other top executives receive — perhaps the right word here is really expect — that when we stumbled across something in the proxy that Dresser-Rand (DRC) filed yesterday, we nearly did a double-take:

In 2009, the Company, through a third-party relocation services firm, agreed to purchase Mr. Volpe’s home in Olean, New York and all personal effects included therein for $267,500, which was their appraised value. The purchase was consummated in March 2010.

The disclosure refers to Dresser-Rand CEO Vincent Volpe, who has been the company’s CEO since 2000. Sure, we know it’s upstate New York and all, which is about as far away as you can get from other CEO denizens like Atherton, CA and be in the same country. But still! Under $300K for a house and all of its contents that is actually owned (and presumably lived in) by a CEO of a relatively large company? Mon dieu! After all, we thought that Warren Buffett (whose company is big news this morning) was the last remaining frugal CEO of a publicly traded company out there.

But as we started to dig a bit deeper into the proxy, we realized that Volpe may not be that frugal after all. Indeed, it seems that he traded his place in Orleans for new digs in (or at least around) Paris. As the proxy notes,

In 2010, Messrs. Volpe, Mai and Rossi were assigned to Paris, France in furtherance of the Company’s announced plans to open an additional headquarters office there…

The filing then goes on to talk about the various benefits that Volpe and the other executives receive, which, the company notes, “are customary for expatriate assignments in the industry” and include everything from moving expenses and language courses to a monthly housing stipend of 8,000 euros. For Volpe, the proxy notes that the various benefits added up to $424K plus another $189K to cover the tax bill — known as tax equalization in proxy parlance. Digging a bit deeper into the details, we find that the company spent over $300K last year to cover Volpe’s housing, which is more than it spent to buy the house (and itscontents) in upstate New York. Then again, it’s hard to compare the cost of living in The City of Lights to that of the Outdoor Capital of the 1000 Islands.

As for our search for other frugal CEOs, we guess we’ll just have to keep looking. We’re in the midst of proxy season right now and perhaps one will turn up in the pile one day soon.

Image source: Wikipedia Commons

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