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Utility execs' pay nearly doubles

The recent belt tightening at Florida Progress Corp. did not extend to the top levels of the executive suite. Thanks to generous bonus programs, the company's top three executives nearly doubled their compensation last year.

The proxy statement released by the company Tuesday shows chairman Jack B. Critchfield received $1.3-million in total compensation last year, a 97.6 percent increase from the $642,723 the company paid him in 1992.

President Richard Korpan's pay jumped from $435,288 to $823,604. And Allen J. Keesler Jr., president of Florida Power Corp., Florida Progress' chief subsidiary, made $814,686, up from $419,766.

The company is in the middle of a major restructuring that included the elimination of 300 jobs last year and another 300 this year. Two hundred people were offered early retirement and most of them accepted.

However, spokeswoman Karen Raihill said the cutbacks had no impact on executive compensation, a large portion of which is now tied to the company's financial performance.

"The incentive payouts for these executives are not arising out of any savings from our downsizing efforts; so far we haven't had any savings," she said.

"The financial benefit of any position eliminations will not begin to be realized until later in '94 and going forward. The downsizing, although difficult, has been necessary to strengthen us even further for the competitive environment in which we will be operating."

The company's profits were up 11.9 percent last year, a substantial improvement after a series of lackluster years. With an after-tax income of $196.6-million, last year was the first time the company bettered the profit it produced in 1987.

"When company and executive performance reaches or exceeds goals established by the board, compensation rises," Florida Progress said in a written statement. "When performance falls below those goals, compensation drops. This correlation indicates that a significant portion _ as much as 50 percent _ of each executive's potential compensation is at risk and tied to company performance."

Critchfield's base pay increased 5 percent in 1993, to $585,186. However, he received $396,500 as an annual performance bonus, more than five times his 1992 bonus. In addition, he received 8,891 shares of stock valued at $277,844 as a bonus for performance over the past three years. This year's payouts are the first under the company's long-term bonus program.

Critchfield also is eligible for estimated annual retirement benefits of more than $100,000, according to the proxy statement.

The company said Keesler's compensation comes from Florida Power, but Critchfield's and Korpan's bonuses are paid from non-utility operations.

The company said the executives' base salaries are related to market standards for top executives rather than to company performance.

The company said its compensation committee looked at data from a survey of 100 electric utilities and 381 industrial companies similar in size to Florida Progress, which has $2-billion in annual revenues. Last year's average increase in base salary for top executives was 5.68 percent, the company said.

The incentive compensation programs are tied tomeeting specific performance goals, which varied for each executive.

"The total compensation packages place these executives near the middle of the range of persons holding similar positions or having similar responsibilities at other electric utilities and industrial companies," the company said.

Members of the compensation committee were all directors from outside the company _ Clarence V. McKee, Vincent J. Naimoli, Jean Giles Wittner and Michael P. Graney, who was replaced by Richard A. Nunis at the start of this year.