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Disney’s magic lets directors soar…

Sitting on the board of The Walt Disney Co. (DIS) surely brings with it some of the magic that the entertainment company tries to impart into all its products, to sometimes greater and sometimes lesser degrees of success.

One place where the magic apparently never fails to shine: Disney’s board compensation. That much is clear from an brief attachment tucked into Disney’s 10-K, filed a few minutes after 5 p.m. on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.

In the document, Disney lays out its new pay package for its non-employee directors, and much of it has seen hefty increases from the pay arrangements in place just last year. The cash retainer, for example, has jumped 25%, to $100,000 from $80,000. The audit-committee chairman now gets an additional $20,000 a year, instead of the additional $15,000 that came with the job last year.

Another nice boost comes in the form of the directors’ equity grant. That rises to $150,000, in four quarterly $37,500 slugs of deferred stock, which turn into actual shares after two years. The new grant replaces the annual $84,000 in stock options and $56,000 in deferred stock they got last year. (Disney replaced the stock options a little over a year ago with $56,000 in deferred stock, but that applies to the most recent fiscal year.)

Each individual element looks like small potatoes, but once you begin adding it up — including the unchanged $10,000-per-year fee received for sitting on each committee — and, well, it begins to add up. Last year, directors made between $219,000 and $254,009, with most of them hovering right around the quarter-million mark. These new increases are sure to bump that up. (Chairman John E. Pepper Jr. made $561,606, thanks to a hefty chairman’s retainer that’s staying put at $500,000 in stock, though he gets to keep his after a year or less.)

It isn’t the first time in recent years that Disney’s board has voted itself a nice raise. Back in early December 2009 — just two years ago — Michelle footnoted their last raise, which brought the base retainer to $80,000 from $65,000. A raise every couple years isn’t outrageous, but we don’t know many jobs that offer a 54% increase in base pay in such a short time.

Especially when, frankly, performance has been up and down, at least from a shareholder’s perspective. The company’s shares fell 16% in its fiscal year ending September 30, 2009, just ahead of that last raise. Things have improved since then, with Disney shares rising about 22% through the end of September, but trailing the S&P 500 so far this year. (Going by Morningstar’s handy total-return tables, Disney’s stock trailed the diversified media segment by substantial amounts since 2008.)

The net effect of all that bouncing around? An 18% gross gain in the two years following that first raise — better than the S&P 500, for sure, but not quite as nice a performance as Disney’s directors got in their paychecks.

Image source: Disney castle photo via Shutterstock