Yahoo gives Levinsohn a little something until he can get back on his feet

Interim CEO resigns, gets year's salary and $1 million in restricted stock in severance deal

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I'll never forget the time I was passed over for a promotion at one of the media companies where I worked.

I was pretty disappointed. Not only did the company not promote me, it hired someone from the outside to fill the position. Talk about gratitude. I actually had done the job on a temporary basis for a couple of months, and nothing really bad happened. You'd think that would have made me the obvious choice to get the job full-time. Apparently not.

Anyway, I was so bummed out that I realized I couldn't work there anymore, so I quit. Not only that, I quit with no other job lined up! Crazy, right?

Not really so crazy. The company where I worked was understanding and knew I couldn't really stay. It would just be awkward for everyone. So after I told them I was quitting, upper management offered to give me a few bucks to tide me over until I cleared my head and got back on my feet. After all, what with me quitting and everything, I couldn't even collect unemployment!

Now, I'm not good with numbers, and the details are hazy, but I believe they gave me a year's salary in a straight-up cash severance deal, along with my full bonus for the year I departed and part of the following year's bonus. There was something else too -- oh, yeah, restricted stock units worth about $1 million.

It was the least they could do for a loyal, hard-working employee, right? I mean, I didn't get that promotion, so I just couldn't stay there.

Of course, none of what I described above actually occurred. At least not to me. But it did to Ross Levinsohn, who on Monday announced he was leaving Yahoo following the naming of Google executive Marissa Mayer as new CEO, a job Levinsohn filled on an interim basis for a few weeks after former chief executive Scott Thompson was ousted over a resume scandal.

Levinsohn got what I described above, plus 250,000 stock options at 15.80 each. (His annual salary, by the way, was $700,000.)

Most of us are familiar with the lavish severance packages given fired CEOs (see Apotheker, Bartz), but I wasn't aware that high-level executives could work out severance deals for when they quit. But just read Levinsohn's employment offer letter from Yahoo in October 2010:

"[I]f your employment is terminated by Yahoo! without Cause or you resign for Good Reason, then Yahoo! will offer you severance benefits pursuant to its normal practice at the time of your termination and similar to what is offered to other executives at your level."

According to the excerpt above, Yahoo agreed when it hired Levinsohn to pay him a severance package if he quits "for good reason," a deal "similar to what is offered to other executives" at his level.

All of which, if I interpret this language correctly, is "normal practice."

Have any of you readers ever benefited from this kind of job-quitting arrangement? Know anybody who has? Feel free to comment below.

Chris Nerney writes ITworld's Tech Business Today blog. Follow Chris on Twitter at @ChrisNerney. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.

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