Bloomin' Brands CEO Elizabeth Smith received $24.5 million in compensation last year.
That will pay for a lot of Bloomin' Onions — more than 3 million, if you are counting. It also set a modern record for chief executive officer compensation of a Tampa Bay public company, eclipsing the $19.8 million paid in 2009 to John Byrnes of Clearwater home oxygen provider Lincare.
To be clear, Smith's $24.5 million consists of a relatively paltry $941,552 salary and a whopping $22.4 million incentive and retention bonus tied to Smith taking Bloomin' Brands public again after years as a private company owned in part by Bain Capital. Bain still holds a piece of the public company and is well represented on its board of directors.
Bloomin' Brands, of course, not only owns Outback Steakhouse but also Carrabba's Italian Grill, Bonefish Grill, Fleming's Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar, and Roy's. It once owned other chains but sold some off (Lee Roy Selmon's and Cheeseburger in Paradise) or just closed others (like Blue Ocean Seafood).
Some area companies have yet to report what they paid their top executives in 2012, but it looks unlikely Smith will face serious competition as the big area breadwinner. (This comparison does not include the pay of executives running private companies in the area since those figures are not disclosed.)
So, is Smith's mega-paycheck last year a fluke? CEOs David Dunkel at Kforce and Tim Main at Jabil Circuit (now run as of this month by CEO Mark Mondello) were weak runners-up in their most recently available compensation packages.
But over time, are other executives actually pulling in more money than the Bloomin' Brands chief? We went back over the last three available years of compensation and combined those paychecks to get a longer view of who's making the most money.
Smith's $24.5 million in 2012 is so big, she still buried her competition in a 3-year review. Smith's pulled in $37.9 million, far more than any of her regional peers.
None of this is meant to criticize Bloomin' Brands' generous board of directors, which decides Smith's pay, or to suggest Smith is overpaid. Her 2012 pay was a convergence of bonuses and probably won't be so richly repeated any time soon.
But it is of regional interest when one CEO's compensation suddenly leaps out of the norm of already substantial pay packages. It deserves a look and some perspective.
Consider the formidable difference between Smith's paycheck and some other top executives running big companies here:
• The largest public company by revenues in the Tampa Bay area is technology product distributor Tech Data Corp, whose CEO Bob Dutkowsky was paid $4.3 million last year and $13.4 million over the past three years.
• One company that's broken out of the Tampa Bay herd and now boasts a market value topping $6 billion is Raymond James Financial, the investment firm whose acquisition of Morgan Keegan was its largest deal ever. Raymond James CEO Paul Reilly, recent successor to legendary chief Tom James, was paid $4.5 million last year and earned $11.3 million in the past three years.
• Publix Super Markets is not a publicly traded company although Publix employees can own shares in the company. The Lakeland-based giant is not only the No. 1 grocery chain by market share in Florida but again made Fortune magazine's list of "world's most admired" companies. CEO William Crenshaw received $1 million in the most recently disclosed compensation report and has earned $2.9 million in the past three years.
That's one way to look at Smith's record regional pay package. Here's another.
Last year, Progress Energy CEO Bill Johnson was supposed to become chief executive of the merged Duke Energy-Progess power company. He was ousted on his first day with a $44 million departure gift.
Earlier this month, Omaha billionaire Warren Buffet's company, Berkshire Hathaway, bought ketchup giant Heinz Co. That triggered a payout rule at Heinz that will allow another CEO named Bill Johnson to walk away with $200 million if he leaves when the new owners take control. It's good to be Bill Johnson, either one of them.
Sure, $24.5 million buys a lot of Bloomin' Onions. But $200 million buys a lot more ketchup. It makes Smith look underpaid.
Either way, anyone hungry?
Robert Trigaux can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.