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Tech Data shareholders weigh in on execs' pay

"The door has always been open. This just puts a little more formality about the opportunity to communicate about it," said Robert M. Dutkowsky, chief executive officer of Tech Data Corp.

JOSEPH GARNETT JR. | Times (2005)

"The door has always been open. This just puts a little more formality about the opportunity to communicate about it," said Robert M. Dutkowsky, chief executive officer of Tech Data Corp.

CLEARWATER — Ever want to tell one of the higher ups what you think about their salary? At Tech Data, now you can.

The company's shareholders approved a measure that lets them weigh in on executive pay, the company announced at its annual meeting Wednesday. Similar "say on pay" resolutions have come up at corporations nationwide, and allow shareholders to voice an advisory opinion on the pay of top executives.

"The door has always been open. This just puts a little more formality about the opportunity to communicate about it," said Robert M. Dutkowsky, chief executive officer of Tech Data Corp.

"Say on pay" measures have been pushed by more than 75 investors with over $1-trillion in assets under management at more than 90 companies, according to Walden Asset Management, a Boston firm. Walden manages about $2-billion and promotes socially responsible investing, and is a proponent of "say on pay."

"We think the advisory vote would really give us an opportunity to provide a check and a balance on executive pay," said Timothy Smith, senior vice president of Walden Asset Management. Although "say on pay" is nonbinding, a negative vote signals shareholder discontent with the direction of the company, Smith said.

Smith said that 2008 "say on pay" measures have won 40 percent of the vote or more. At least eight won majority support, including at Apple Computer, Lexmark and Motorola. Other companies saw similar measures passed last year, including Verizon and Blockbuster. United Health votes today, and Wal-Mart investors vote Friday.

At Tech Data, the move was pushed by CalPERS, the nation's largest public pension fund and a Tech Data investor.

Dutkowsky's salary more than tripled from 2007 to 2008, to $916,154. He also earned a bonus of $1.59-million, nearly three times his 2007 bonus. His 2007 compensation reflects only four months of work.

With stock awards and options, his compensation for 2008 was about $4.1-million, up from $1.49-million in 2007. The Clearwater company has more than 8,000 employees worldwide and revenue of $23.4-billion last year.

It's an issue that touches a chord with investors and the public, Dutkowsky said. "Compensation is emotional."

"Yes, it's a very emotional issue, and there's a lot of attention paid to it," Smith agreed. "But the big investors like CalPERS are probably voting much more dispassionately."

Asjylyn Loder can be reached at or (813) 225-3117.

Interview with Robert Dutkowsky, chief executive officer of Tech Data Corp.:

Shareholders approved a measure to give them an advisory opinion on executive compensation. These "say on pay" resolutions have been gaining steam at other companies, too. Why are shareholders pushing for these resolutions, and what does it mean for Tech Data?

I think overall there's a certain — I am trying to choose this word carefully — a certain discomfort about the way executives get paid. Our board and compensation committee is anxious to get feedback from shareholders. They've always had the ability to give input. The door has always been open. This just puts a little more formality about the opportunity to communicate about it.

In 2008, your salary hit $916,154. You earned a bonus of $1.59-million. With stock awards and options, your compensation for 2008 was about $4.1-million. Are you worth it?

How do you answer that question? Don't write that.

Want to try again?

We lost nearly $100-million two years ago, and made more than $200-million this year. That's a pretty big turnaround for any company.

You came on board in October 2006. Are you the author of this turnaround?

I don't believe any one person turns around a $23-billion company. I'm just one member of the management team that has done all the hard work to engineer this turnaround. There's more than 8,000 people that turned this company around. We've done a set of strategic things in Europe in the last four to five years, and now we're well on our way to recovery there.

You came here from Massachusetts. Do you cheer for the Red Sox or the Rays?

I'm a Rays fan. Except when they play Boston. It's hard.

The NBA finals kick off tonight, with the celebrated rivalry of the Celtics vs. Lakers. Are you backing the Celtics?

Yes. I have a brick from the original Boston Garden. My son Kevin gave it to me. He's named after Kevin McHale.

—Asjylyn Loder

Tech Data shareholders weigh in on execs' pay 06/04/08 [Last modified: Monday, June 9, 2008 1:48pm]
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