Heading somewhere?

Did I miss the WSJ story that said corporate headhunters were so desperate these days to find good talent that they needed to start hunting at poorly performing companies? That’s what one would believe after reading this 8-K filed by Paxson Communications (PAX) late yesterday.

Paxson’s new “executive retention bonus plan” would lead you to believe that the board’s biggest concern is finding ways to reward top executives for sticking around. How else could one explain the anticipated $5.1 million gift for an unidentified group of “select senior officers”? Under the new plan, the five named executive officers will qualify for bonuses up to 250% of their base salary, which for Chairman and CEO Lowell Paxson, was nearly $900K last year.

Granted the bonuses are structured over time — 20% at the end of this year, 35% by next June and the remainder in December 2006 — and they’re tied to the company meeting its cash-flow projections. But given the stock’s performance over the past few years, one might argue that these executives should consider themselves lucky to still have jobs. Are additional incentives really necessary?