Free

Mr. Clean…

robot.jpgYou hate to kick a company when it’s down, but perhaps buyout hopes and their new “life-altering experiences” business can stop the bleeding at the Sharper Image (SHRP). Or maybe not. After last month’s sales numbers were released, it’s clear that customers aren’t the only ones experiencing free-fall.

And sometimes it just seems like the company is asking for trouble. For example, you may remember that we footnoted about former CEO Richard Thalheimer taking Superman and C3PO statues with him when he stepped down.

Then there is their proxy, filed yesterday, that is full of goodies.

First, there’s the sweetheart deal given to “turnaround specialist” Jerry Levin, whose ideas include the AOL-Time Warner merger (thanks to Matt Ragas for pointing out that we got Sharper Image’s Jerry W. Levin confused with former Time-Warner chief Gerald M. Levin). He advised the company and served as interim CEO from September of last year until March of 2007 when Steven Lightman was tapped to head Sharper Image.

Levin was granted total compensation of $566K including stock options, $262K in fees, $119K in commuting and lodging expenses and a $10K board retainer fee.

Then there is the $7,918 discount for Sharper Image products Levin received in a program that is, as the proxy says, “available to directors under our directors’ policy that is not available to our employees.” I think we can all agree that Sharper Image has some neat stuff, but nearly $8K is a lot of Ionic Breeze air purifiers.

Not bad for less than a year of work.

And we can’t forget about Mr. Thalheimer. He left the company with a $6.8 million payday, including $1.77 in severance, $81K in interest on the severance and $3.9 million for his retirement plan.

Also included in the total is $300K for whatever an “office allowance” is and $22K for “janitorial service for home office.” I guess that Superman statue doesn’t polish itself.

All of the directors also get discounts on Sharper Image products, although no one else was able to rack up a bill as impressive as Levin. Morton David claimed the second-highest amount in discounts at $2,376.

Then again, Sharper Image is in no position to hand out any discounts at the moment. Unless, of course, that counts as same-store sales.