Some pre-Thanksgiving turkey from Tyson…

November 24, 2010

Thanksgiving may not be until tomorrow, but we found a heaping helping of turkey attached to the 10-K that Tyson Foods (TSN) filed on Monday. Don Tyson — yes that Don Tyson who five years ago had to settle with the SEC over the improper disclosure of company perks — has a new employment contract that reimburses him because the company apparently sold off some of the very perks that the SEC was so concerned about back in 2005. Here’s a snip from the new contract, an amendment to the Senior Executive Advisor Agreement (SEAA), which was attached to the 10-K:

WHEREAS, pursuant to the SEAA, the Company agreed to provide for Employee’s reasonable personal use certain of the Company’s real property and a boat at previously established rates…

WHEREAS, since the date of the SEAA, the Company has sold or otherwise discontinued availability of the Benefits; and

WHEREAS, due to such Benefits no longer being available to Employee, the Company and Employee now desire to amend the SEAA as provided in this Amendment to partially compensate Employee for the loss of the Benefits.

So just to cut through the fancy lawyer language here, Don Tyson needs to be reimbursed because he no longer has access to the house and boat in Cabo San Lucas or perhaps the other house in “the English Countryside” (you can read the SEC’s original complaint which spells out the wide variety of perks once bestowed upon Tyson here). Tyson, of course, is one of the world’s largest producers of poultry, including many of the turkeys that will be served tomorrow.

That complaint estimated that the perks were worth around $3 milion. But that was in the late 1990s. What with inflation and all, that’s probably worth around $4 million now. In exchange, Tyson is getting a mere 200 hours of personal use of the corporate jet, which he can use personally or designate to others. The sacrifice that Tyson is making here is just astounding.

And he’s not the only one. Another agreement attached to the filing with Tyson’s son, John, also caught our attention. It updates an earlier agreement from 2007 which paid the younger Tyson $300K a year to provide up to 20 hours a month of advisory services. The new agreement extends the term of the advisory role for 10 years and raises that fee to $500K a year. There’s also the country club membership and up to 150 hours of personal use of the corporate jet. Oh, and the way the agreement is written, it’s not exactly a requirement for Tyson to actually work a whole 20 hours a month in exchange for the cash and the perks.

Can plumper, juicier turkeys be found? Not in time for Thanksgiving, we’re sure!

Happy Thanksgiving!

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