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Keeping them warm and happy…

When an executive has been at a company as long as Richard Whiting has been at Peabody Energy (BTU) — 30 years, according to the company’s website — it’s hard to argue that the company is in danger of losing him to the competition. Which is why a footnote in the preliminary proxy that the company filed yesterday was so interesting: Whiting got a $1 million retention bonus last year, or nearly two years worth of salary, just for staying put. The proxy shows that Whiting wasn’t the only long-term executive to get a hefty retention bonus. CFO Richard Navarre, who has been at the company since 1993, also got one, though his was only $600K, or slightly more than 1 year’s salary. The company described the retention bonuses as party of their "succession planning" which rings a bit hollow. Maybe they should have called it a longevity bonus instead.

Still, that wasn’t the only interesting thing buried in Peabody’s filing. The stock, which has been on quite a roll lately now that coal has fallen back into favor, has been very good news for the top five executives. Last year, they exercised $40 million worth of options and received nearly 70% of all options granted at the company. With strike prices ranging from $19.33 to $23.73 and a stock currently trading at $45, this is one group of executives that didn’t have to worry about hefty home heating bills this past winter.