So where were they going?

May 24, 2004

Usually, when companies hand out retention bonuses, it’s because they’re in danger of losing a key executive to a rival company. But it’s hard to find evidence of that at regional carrier Mesa Air (MESA), which recently inked two lucrative new employment agreements with its top two execs. Chairman and CEO Jonathan Ornstein received a $1.86 million retention bonus, according to the recent Q. That’s approximately 6 times his salary this year. President and COO Michael Lotz received a $1.485 million retention bonus, also about 6 times his annual salary. Both contracts give the two men 50% salary increases over the next two years. Salaries after 2006 — the new contracts are set to run out in March 2009 — are not disclosed. Ornstein also qualifies for some other goodies: an annual bonus up to $420K this year, 150,000 stock options each year for the next five, over 200,000 shares of restricted stocks, up to 100 hours a year of use of the corporate jet, and a few others. The contracts were signed in March, but included in the recent Q. Earlier this month, Mesa restated its earnings for the past three years as well as for the first quarter of 2004 as it brought several off-balance sheet obligations back onto its balance sheet.

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