A Look At John Wren’s $25M Bonus

By SuperSpy 

As we all know, the stock prices of media firms have been trending into the gutter, since the economic crisis. It’s a rough climate all around. Steve Jobs took a $1 salary. The top executives at numerous financial institutions have also waived their bonuses.

Omnicom has already announced recently that they will be laying off 3500 workers this January. And yet, John Wren, CEO of the Omnicom Group, received a grant of 1 million options on Dec. 29 with an exercise price of $25.48 each, which implies a face value of $25M. A Black Scholes report that an analyst kindly ran for us showed that the value of these options is around $4M. It gets kind of tricky in here. Suggest you click on the link or kindly ask your newly unemployed stock broker friend to explain. What you need to know is that the man got a huge bonus – anyway you cut it.

Five other executives at the advertising death star also received grants of 500,000 options that carry a face value of $12.74 million. You can download the award document here.

The market and advertising are cyclical. The odds are that by the time Wren sells these shares, their value will be enormous no matter what his actions are during the same period of time. Sure, CEOs are awarded stock as compensation all that time, but now seems like strange time to be loading down Wren with future dollars.

In comparison, in 2007, Martin Sorrell’s, CEO of WPP, took home roughly the same base salary. However, Sorrell’s salary is also tied very strictly to performance. Here’s some key notes on how Sorrell gets paid that make Wren’s newly acquired cash cow seem utterly non-sensical:

“Sir Martin Sorrell’s base salary was increased from £840,000 to £1,000,000 on 1 January 2007. This is the first increase to Sir Martin’s base salary since September 1999.”

Sorrell’s bonus is also doled out under strict performance-based guidelines that include: Group financial results; individual strategic objectives determined prospectively by the committee at the commencement of each year; and the achievement by the individual director of key business objectives. As you can see from the graph below of 2007 bonus pay-outs at WPP, this isn’t just lip service. You can see the full compensation program here.

So why aren’t Wren’s stockholders up in arms? I bet you are. Wren was awarded his whopping stock despite a rough market, laid off employees, a “hold” value on Omnicom’s stock and no known plan of how the agency plans on weathering 2009 to 2010. Well, at least someone is making out in this market.

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