Taken for a ride at MicroStrategy Inc. __»

April 20, 2010

We always imagine chief executives tend to be well-traveled people, flying off to power lunches and taking critical conference calls on their cell phones from the back seat of their cars.

But some corporate chieftains seem to have a little more wanderlust than others — and while the jet-setters usually get the attention, a few seem to have their wheels planted firmly on the ground. Exhibit A: Michael J. Saylor, president, chairman and CEO of MicroStrategy Inc., a McLean, Va., firm that helps other companies analyze their data.

Saylor racked up $125,615 in personal use of company vehicles in 2009 — plus another $57,800 in “alternative car services,” according to the proxy MicroStrategy filed April 16. That’s part of his total pay of $4.7 million, including cash incentive compensation of $3.35 million.

Earlier in the filing, the company provides a lengthy description of the various wheels to which Saylor is entitled:

“We provide Company-owned vehicles and a driver to Mr. Saylor. In addition to business use, we have authorized Mr. Saylor to make personal use of the company-owned vehicles and related driving services when such vehicles are not being used for business purposes, and we provide a tax gross-up for taxes he may incur as a result of this personal use. — [W]e permit him to acquire the services of one or more drivers for vehicles other than Company-owned vehicles for personal use, and we provide a tax gross-up for taxes he may incur as a result of this personal use.”

The explanation is simple: The company wants to

“enable Mr. Saylor to make more productive and efficient use of his time for Company business while he is in transit, enhance his personal security and help to preserve Company confidentiality by limiting his use of public transportation such as taxis and limousine rental services”

There’s a limit even to MicroStrategy’s automotive generosity, however. Personal use of drivers for non-company vehicles is reimbursed only up to $150,000 a year, including tax gross-ups, for Saylor and all employees and directors. There doesn’t appear to be a limit on personal use of company vehicles.

Never mind that $183,415 could buy Saylor four 2010 BMW 335 i 2D Coupes. We were curious what the company would get for that kind of cash at the rates charged by a New York City cabbie. The answer: nine round-trips from the company’s Washington, D.C.-area headquarters to Anchorage, Alaska — plus an 18.6% tip. That much traveling would amount to 211 miles a day.

Now that’s a hard-driving CEO.

Image source: Fly Navy via Flickr

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