One guy just got paid $44 million to be CEO for a day.
In an apparent corporate coup, Duke Energy, an electric power holding company that recently merged with Progress Energy, appears to have reneged on the spirit of its merger agreement with Progress, the Los Angeles Times reports. The merger agreement stipulated that the new company would have Progress' William Johnson as chief executive and Duke's James Rogers as executive chairman, according to The New York Times.
But within hours of the merger's completion and installation of Johnson as CEO of the combined company, the board of directors asked for Johnson's resignation and installed Rogers as the combined company's CEO. For the mere day he served as CEO, Johnson was provided a compensation package which included $44 million, Forbes reports.
Johnson's yet unexplained ouster may have damaged the trust of the combined firm.
In a letter sent to the Wall Street Journal and The New York Times, former top director of Progress John Mullin stated that he viewed the action as "one of the greatest corporate hijackings in U.S. business history" (h/t Forbes).
Standard & Poor's, one of the largest global credit rating agencies, also made known its displeasure at the ouster. The ratings agency put Duke Energy on watch for a possible downgrade, according to Businessweek.
Rogers is expected to meet with the merged company's directors early next week, according to the NYT. Meanwhile, Johnson's compensation is contingent on cooperating with Duke Energy and promises not to disparage the company.
Johnson isn't the first CEO to net a huge paycheck on his way out. Former General Electric CEO Jack Welch took home $417,361,902 when he left the company. In addition, Doug Foshee could have actually gotten paid to not do his job. The CEO of El Paso at the time of the company's merger with Kinder Morgan in October was eligible for an exit package worth $95 million if he left within two years of the acquisition.