What’s that money buying them?

February 25, 2005

For the past three years, Novell (NOVL) has been paying $200K a year to a consulting firm owned by one of its directors, former American Express (AXP) Chairman and CEO James D. Robinson. What sage advice or services are Novell’s investors getting for that money, which appears to be in addition to the $50K a year in directors fees? The proxy, filed yesterday, isn’t particularly clear. Nor is it clear how long the contract will be in place for, though a quick skim of prior proxies shows that Robinson has collected the same $200K in consulting fees since 2002. Another interesting thing in Novell’s proxy — there were several to choose from — was the $735,928 in other compensation that Gerard Van Kemmel, chairman of Novell Belgium collected in 2004. The only thing the company says about the money — which is nearly 20% more than Van Kemmel’s base salary last year — is that it was related to him terminating his employment agreement with Novell European Services and signing a new employment agreement with Novell Belgium, which doesn’t exactly seem worth that kind of money. And then there’s the generous bonuses for much of the top five execs (except Van Kemmel) at a time when the stock has been (to say it politely) lagging.

Don’t forget the contest: The next few days will see lots of filings. I’ll send a signed copy of Financial Fine Print to the person who finds the most creative thing buried in an SEC filing. Send your entries to me.

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