The Big Money: Most Public Company Execs in Arkansas Got Raises in 2010

by Gwen Moritz  on Monday, Aug. 15, 2011 12:00 am  

Mike Duke, CEO of Wal-Mart Stores Inc., pulled total compensation of $18.7 million in 2010.

2010 wasn't a great year for Arkansas' publicly traded companies: Seven of 18 reported net losses in their most recently completed fiscal years.

(Click here for a PDF list of public companies ranked by net income.)

But last year was a good time to be running one of those companies, with total compensation rising for 65 of 88 of the executives named in annual corporate proxy statements and exercising stock options more likely to be part of the mix.

(Click here for a PDF list of public companies' executive compensation.)

(Click here for a related story on the new "say-on-pay" law.)

As is fitting, the CEO of the largest company in Arkansas - and the world - was the highest paid executive in the state. Michael T. Duke received a total compensation package from Wal-Mart Stores Inc. of $18.7 million, down 3.5 percent from 2009 entirely because his performance pay and stock and options awards were cut by almost $1 million.

Two other Arkansas executives had total pay packages that reached eight figures last year: David M. Wood, CEO of Murphy Oil Corp. of El Dorado, with $14.1 million and Jeffery R. Gardner, CEO of Windstream Corp. of Little Rock, whose compensation nearly doubled to $10.4 million thanks to more than $3 million realized from exercising stock options.

Almost half the executives on the list, 43, were paid at least $1 million last year.

Arkansas Business' annual list of public companies' executive compensation, which appears on Pages 13-16, uses a simple formula for arriving at total compensation: all compensation reported in the annual proxy, plus the actual value realized from the exercise of stock options during the year. Thirty-eight percent of the executives on this year's list exercised options in 2010, compared with 27 percent in 2009

This year's list is significantly shorter than last year's, just 88 names compared with 99, thanks primarily to the disappearance of two publicly traded companies: the tiny penny stock WellQuest Medical & Wellness Corp. of Bentonville and Baldor Electric Co. of Fort Smith. WellQuest began trading publicly in April 2009 and ceased reporting to the Securities & Exchange Commission a year later. Baldor was acquired by Swiss giant ABB Ltd. in January and did not subsequently file a proxy statement.

In keeping with the SEC's efforts to make executive pay reporting more uniform and transparent, corporate proxy statements include detailed breakdowns of the top managers referred to as "named executive officers."

Most companies include five NEOs, but some (including America's Car-Mart Inc. of Bentonville and Harrison-based First Federal Bancshares of Arkansas) only report three. Mid-year personnel changes can result in more than five being included in the reporting, as is the case with Acxiom Corp. of Little Rock and Arkansas Best Corp. of Fort Smith.



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