Too early for worst footnote of 2013?

Given that it’s only 18 days after the year began, it may be a wee bit premature to declare a winner of the worst footnote for 2013. Still this 8-K filed by Apollo Group (APOL) last night, is already in the running.

Now Apollo, the for-profit education company that is best known for the University of Phoenix, is something of a frequent-flyer here at footnoted. The company first caught our attention nearly six years ago when we footnoted about their giant document dump: they filed 3 10-Qs and a 10-K all on the same day, which still may be something of a record. Keep in mind that at the time, the stock was trading in the high 40s and on its way to the mid 80s. We also footnoted the company in January 2010 after the company entered into a naming rights agreement with the Arizona Cardinals. By then, the stock was already a year into its long downward descent.

So imagine our surprise when we read yesterday’s filing to find out that John Sperling, the company’s outgoing Executive Chairman, a title he has held for the past decade and whose duties he has been paid $850,000 a year to perform, would be retiring to Chairman Emeritus. The new gig won’t pay quite as well, but it’s not exactly a gold watch either.

Indeed, Apollo’s board, whose members include John Sperling’s son, Peter, decided to give the elder Sperling a $5 million “special retirement bonus in recognition of his many years of service with the Company and the important contributions he has made as leader and visionary.”

But wait, as they used to say in those old Ginsu Knife ads: that’s not all! Sperling, who was 91 as of the last filing, will also get $71,000 per month as part of a lifetime annuity and, because it’s hard to pay for cars with that kind of cash-flow, two cars that he used as Executive Chairman will be transferred to him. We’re not quite sure why an Executive Chairman needs two cars, since presumably, you can only drive one car (or be driven in one car) at any one time, but the filing is pretty explicit on this point.

According to Apollo’s most recent proxy, the elder Sperling owns 11.4 million shares of Apollo, which, while worth considerably less than they used to be, are still worth about $228 million at current prices.

How much vision does it take to come up with a business that is so dependent on federal tax dollars? Not a lot in our book! Seems like Coursera and Udacity are a lot more visionary to us.