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Tampa International CEO may get $500,000 bonus if he stays five years

To keep Joe Lopano as CEO at TIA, a plan calls for him to get a hefty bonus if he stays until 2018.

To keep Joe Lopano as CEO at TIA, a plan calls for him to get a hefty bonus if he stays until 2018.

TAMPA — If Joe Lopano stays on as CEO of Tampa International Airport for another five years until 2018, he'll get a bonus of more than $500,000 — on top of his annual $315,000 salary.

That's the proposal that the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority will consider during today's meeting. The Tampa Bay Times obtained a copy of the proposal Wednesday.

During the board's March 1 meeting, it voted 3-1 to renegotiate Lopano's contract, fearing that another airport might try to lure away its CEO. Lopano's old airport, Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, is looking for a new CEO, and his name has been floated there as a possible candidate.

So the Hillsborough board discussed ways to keep Lopano, including a noncompete clause and additional compensation and perks. Mayor Bob Buckhorn was the only objector, and he criticized the notion of giving Lopano another raise even though he's under contract through 2016.

Lopano, who has been on the job for two years and two months, got two raises and two contract extensions last year. In January 2012, the board voted 3-2 to give Lopano a $50,000 raise. Then in October, the board voted 5-0 on a $15,000 merit raise.

There's no noncompete clause in the new contract, but the five-year requirement gives him incentive not to look anywhere else. Lopano wouldn't fully vest until after the five-year anniversary date. By that time, he would have also have made almost $1.6 million in salary.

Lopano would receive the bonus in the form of a deferred compensation plan under section 457(F) of the Internal Revenue Code. That allows organizations to make tax-deferred contributions to executives that exceed the restrictions imposed on 401(k) plans.

There are also provisions in the proposal to pay Lopano a prorated version of that $500,000 bonus before the five-year qualification period. He could still collect some of it if he is disabled on the job, or if his heirs could collect it. He could even receive some if he's terminated, depending on the circumstances.

The board is set to discuss Lopano's contract today, after a scheduled vote on Tampa International Airport's new master plan.

Tampa International CEO may get $500,000 bonus if he stays five years 04/03/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, April 3, 2013 8:19pm]
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