Your teeth: A goldmine for Sirona Dental execs…

January 19, 2012

It turns out that running a dental supply company has a lot in common with your average dental visit — but we don’t mean the pain, the fear, or, most especially, the whopping bill that insurance only partly covers.

No, we’re talking about the perks, the creature comforts. You get the soothing music, the minty mouthwash, the comfy chair with a built-in footrest, and at the end, a freebie toothbrush, toothpaste and dental floss, maybe in a serviceable travel case. Similarly, Jost Fischer and several of his colleagues get chauffeured cars, New York City apartments and thousands of dollars toward their health-care premiums.

Fischer is chief executive of Sirona Dental Systems (SIRO), which boasts a lineage back to the maker of the first electric dental drill (yikes!) and now makes and sells everything from those Swiss Army chairs to dental instruments, software and imaging devices. And they do a booming business, to judge by the proxy statement the company filed on Tuesday. As CEO, Fischer made $4 million in the fiscal year ended September 30, up from $3.1 million the prior year. Most of the increase came in the form of a cash bonus ($1.6 million vs. $1.1 million last year) and stock awards ($1.5 million vs. $1.1 million), but Fischer also got a nice grab-bag of perks.

Sirona spent just about $29,000 for Fischer’s annual car allowance, or $2,400 a month — enough to lease a 2012 BMW 335is convertible, with money left over for gas, according to Yahoo’s calculator — and other executives got between $18,510 and $21,845. Fischer and two other executives also got company-paid apartments: His cost $44,000 last year ($3,667 a month), while Chief Financial Officer Simone Blank’s cost the company $43,600.

Now, as housing perks go, this one isn’t as lavish as some we’ve seen. But what really caught our attention is the fact that the two executive apartments are apparently in New York City. Curiously enough, Sirona’s headquarters is also in New York City, specifically in Long Island City, a section of Queens directly across the East River from Manhattan (and easily accessible by car, subway and even foot if you’re a little ambitious).

The proxy is vague on the details, so we’re not sure whether Fischer and Blank live so far from the company’s headquarters that they have to stay overnight nearby on a regular basis, or if they live in the city and the company is simply subsidizing their annual housing costs. We do know that Fischer has been at the company (and a German predecessor firm) since 2001, and Blank since 1999, so they would seem to have had plenty of time to move within commuting distance. Elsewhere, the proxy notes that the executives get tax-equalization payments “in recognition of the fact that these executives are required to spend an increased percentage of their time outside their respective home countries.”

We also know that these perks aren’t just a matter of corporate inertia: In 2008, the company’s compensation committee decided,

“after review of the competitive market assessment conducted by [consulting firm Pearl Meyer & Partners], to continue the Company’s current practice of providing limited auto, housing and tax advisory services to its named executive officers. These perquisites facilitate the performance of our named executive officer’s managerial duties and provide for competitive total compensation…”

Another executive, President Jeffrey T. Slovin, may have an even pricier home, in Bensheim, Germany, a town apparently known for the “onion cake a la woman from Bensheim” (as Wikipedia would have it) and also home to Sirona’s biggest facility. It’s hard to tell for sure, though, because the company reports spending $113,481 on a combination of Slovin’s rental payments “together with relocation expenses incurred by the Company on his behalf” after he was relocated there in 2010.

Finally, all three executives also get thousands of dollars in the form of a “healthcare allowance,” described like this on page 27:

“The Compensation Committee also determined that the Company should provide payments on behalf of some named executive officers for private health care insurance coverage. In fiscal 2011, payments of È8,750 ($12,212 at an average exchange rate of 1.39570 for fiscal 2011), È3,000 ($4,187 … for fiscal 2011) and $32,983 were made on behalf of Mr. Fischer, Ms. Blank and Mr. Slovin, respectively.”

Clearly, there’s good money in teeth. Luckily, the money’s apparently good enough that shareholders have been doing pretty well, too: SIRO shares returned 17% in the fiscal year covered by the proxy, trouncing the broader market and, on a total-return basis, also beating Sirona’s competition.

Image source: In the jaws of the skull via Shutterstock

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On Wednesday, we published the 2012 footnotedPro M&A report, listing 10 companies we believe are likely acquisition targets. Three companies on last year’s Top 10 list announced deals within a little over three months. For more information about our 2012 M&A report, or to inquire about subscribing to footnotedPro, please contact us.

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