Martha Stewart’s Compensation Blooms Again…

April 20, 2010

Ah, springtime — that glorious season when the sun coaxes perennials into bloom, birds trill lightly in the trees, and Martha Stewart Omnimedia—s (MSO) proxy unfurls with yet another raise for Martha.

As longtime readers know, Martha Stewart’s company is one of our —frequent flyers — and that’s not a good thing. Last year, the post about Martha’s new employment contract and its $3 million retention bonus was a contender for the Worst Footnote of 2009. Other juicy past disclosures include a post about Martha taking her —guaranteed minimum bonus (even after several rounds of employee layoffs), and the 2008 disclosure that Martha gets another $2 million annually for allowing MSO to film tv shows at her various properties.

But now it’s 2010. While the stock has doubled over the past year, it’s still nearly 66 percent lower from its April, 2005 trading price. How did Martha do this year?

As it turns out, pretty well. According to the 2010 proxy, which the company filed last Friday at 5:15 p.m., Martha became the company’s —Chief Editorial, Media and Content Officer on March 1, 2010. And her 2008 base salary of $900,000 soared to $1.7 million in 2009.

Martha got a $3,114,231 bonus, which consisted of the above-referenced $3 million —make-whole/retention payment that the company agreed to pay when she signed her new employment agreement, as well as $114,231 more for the —first quarter guaranteed bonus. The board also gave her another bonus of $666,667 — this time labeled —non-equity incentive plan compensation — which was higher and a little sweeter than what the other NEOs received. The filing explains:

—The bonus payments to the NEOs were paid 50% in cash and 50% in fully vested Company stock in lieu of cash, except in the case of Ms. Stewart, who received all cash.

Talk about a vote of confidence by taking the cash over the stock! She also received more than $3.5 million in —Other Compensation (which is actually down from last year). Nearly $2.6 million of that was for the fees and expenses the company pays Martha under its —Intangible Asset License Agreement” which includes the lease and upkeep of her homes. More than $311,000 paid for insurance premiums, another $178,352 bought security services, $105,452 was —for the portion of personnel costs for individuals performing work for Ms. Stewart for which we were not reimbursed, and $100,000 was for Martha’s —non-accountable expense allowance. Nearly $50,000 paid for a weekend driver, and the company also spent an unspecified amount of money for —expenses for personal fitness provided in her capacity as on-air talent and telecommunications services.

Not to be overlooked, in an additional proxy-related document the company filed the same day, Martha Stewart and Executive Chairman/Principal Executive Officer Charles Koppelman wrote letters to their shareholders, just as they did last year. At the end of Koppelman’s 2010 letter, he said:

—We have taken significant actions to streamline our cost structure, which is geared to support improved profitability. In addition, we have maintained a healthy balance sheet that should give us financial and strategic flexibility to execute on our growth strategy. This is the foundation of our business.

Forgive us for feeling slightly cynical, but we—ve come to believe that the —foundation of Martha Stewart Omnimedia just might be to redirect as much of the company’s money as possible to Martha Stewart.

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