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Staying put pays off at Spectrum Brands…

We’re not about to get into the relative merits of Atlanta (motto: “Resurgens“) vs. Madison, Wisconsin (“The Berkeley of the Midwest“). To each his or her own, we say. But for John T. Wilson, the soon-to-be-former senior vice-president and general counsel of Spectrum Brands Holdings (SPB) — a company that makes everything from Cutter insect repellant and Tetra fish-food to Rayovac batteries and George Foreman grills — picking Atlanta over Madison doesn’t look like such a bad move.

Or lack of a move, in this case. It turns out that Spectrum Brands relocated its headquarters from Atlanta to the Athens of the Midwest (yes, Madison has apparently been called that as well, at least by some), as part of the company’s June 2010 merger with small-appliance company Russell Hobbs. Wilson didn’t want to tag along, as an 8-K filed by the company on Monday indicates. For most working stiffs, that would be that: Wilson would give notice and start surfing Monster.com.

Instead, he had options, because under the terms of his employment agreement, as the company’s January 28 proxy puts it, notifying him of the move

“created an event of ‘good reason’ under the Wilson Severance Agreement, giving Mr. Wilson the right to elect to terminate his employment pursuant to the terms thereof and receive the severance benefits provided for thereunder for a termination without ’cause’.”

Wilson and the company extended some deadlines while they negotiated, but apparently no solution emerged. So Wilson gets to stay as SVP until March 1 (he stepped down as general counsel effective February 1). In the process, he gets $150,000, plus up to another $50,000 “based on the Chief Executive Officer’s determination, in his sole discretion, of Mr. Wilson’s performance during the transition period.” He gets his bonus and long-term incentive payments for fiscal 2010, of course, plus a pro-rated bonus for fiscal 2011.

The terms of his employment also spell out severance equal to two years’ salary, plus his target bonus for the current year, or about $855,000, paid out over 12 months. He and his family also get 24 months’ health-care as if he were still employed. Spectrum Brands doesn’t actually disclose the amount he’s entitled to in its 8-K, but last month’s proxy lists departure for “good reason” as bringing him just shy of $950,000 had it happened as of September 30. That’s about what we get by applying his severance formulas.

Of course, staying behind might not be such a good deal if Wilson can’t find another job in Atlanta. But at 36 years old, he can probably afford to take some chances.

Image source: Spectrum Brands website

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