Retiring AT&T CEO Whitacre Lands $158 Million Package - InformationWeek

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Retiring AT&T CEO Whitacre Lands $158 Million Package

Randall Stephenson, the company's chief operating officer, has been named to succeed Whitacre.

AT&T has a CEO compensation package commensurate with its status as the world's largest telecommunications company: Chief executive Edward Whitacre Jr.'s pension package is worth at least $158 million, according to a report Friday.

The firm will hold its annual meeting in San Antonio on Friday and stockholders will get the opportunity to state their opinions on executive pay. The vote is nonbinding, and observers have said they expect Whitacre to be supported anyway, because AT&T's stock has performed so well. It's up almost 50% over the last year.

Whitacre, who is scheduled to retire June 3, has driven AT&T, which traces its origins to the old Baby Bell Southwestern Bell, to its position as the world's biggest telecom firm by market capitalization through a series of acquisitions, culminating in its recent $86 billion pickup of BellSouth.

According to the Wall Street Journal, which reported the compensation package, Whitacre is due to receive a cornucopia of benefits ranging from $73.8 million in nonqualified deferred compensation and $61 million from supplemental retirement income plans to nearly $23 million from additional pension plans. Other retirement benefits, as outlined in AT&T's proxy statement, include access to the company's corporate jet and $25,000 for a country club membership.

"Ed Whitacre's pay and pension reflect his position as one of the longest-serving, most successful CEOs in corporate America," a company spokesman told the Wall Street Journal. "During his tenure as CEO, AT&T has outperformed its peers in delivering value to stockholders, and Mr. Whitacre has positioned the company to continue to create stockholder value for many years go come."

News of Whitacre's big compensation package could take some of the heat off Verizon Communications' chief executive Ivan Seidenberg, whose $20 million compensation package has drawn criticism in recent months. Verizon is the second largest telecom company in the United States.

Both AT&T and Verizon are rolling out fiber optical networks as they increasingly compete with cable companies, which are making incursions into the telecoms' traditional telephone service offerings. The fiber optical networks are more robust than the traditional coaxial cable offerings of the cable companies, so the telecom companies plan to compete aggressively with cable firms.

In another development Friday, AT&T announced that chief operating officer Randall Stephenson will succeed Whitacre as head of the company. The appointment had been expected.

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