Biggest golden parachutes in corporate Australia

December 27, 2022

Here is list of 50 excessive CEO payouts between 1990 and 2010 in Australia, with recent examples to come.

Rodney Adler: collected a $4.3 million termination when HIH Insurance took over his worm-infested FAI business in 1998 but then stayed on the board as a non-executive director with a $480,000-a-year consultancy that was not disclosed to shareholders. Well advised, Malcolm Turnbull!

John Alexander:
James Packer gave his PBL CEO $15 million to buy out his contract when the casino business was demerged in 2007 but then retained him on the boards of both companies earning more than $2 million a year.

Paul Anderson: the BHP CEO engineered his only early departure by gifting $5 billion of value to Billiton in the "$58 billion merger". Despite all his public statements about executive excess, Anderson came out on top of the Aussie-based list with a grand pay packet of $18 million in his final year at the top. Lo and behold, he is allowed to go a year early, receive his contract in full as if terminated and also stay on a non-executive director. Not bad if you can get it.

Paul Anthony: measuring the specific termination element wasn't easy but this Welshman pocketed $17 million for 17 months work at AGL which was outrageously excessive given the performance he delivered.

Don Argus: walked away from the NAB with $9.259 million in cash in 1999 including $7.47 million in "retirement allowances". The Don was also allowed to keep all his options which have made him more than $20 million in profits.

Peter Bartels: new Foster's chairman Nobby Clarke did himself no credit by agreeing to an $8 million payout to Peter Bartels when he refused to sign the accounts in 1992. Outrageously, this was staggered over 5 years so it never showed up as a big lump sum and the market was never told.

Len Bleasel: after starting out as a humble plumber, the retired AGL CEO collected a very handy $11 million in 2001 and that's before considering superannuation.

Malcolm Broomhead: the well performed former chief resigned in 2005 due to ill-health but still received around $4.7 million representing two years fixed annual remuneration.

Chase Carey: became a director of Fox Entertainment in 1992 and was News Corp's co-chief operating officer from 1996 until 2002 when he departed after the Sky Global float fell over and Lachlan Murdoch was promoted over him. The total pay of $US10.7 million included $US5 million for termination, a base of $US1.6 million and a $US3 million bonus.

Michael Chaney:
he spent 12 years at the top of Wesfarmers, taking it from a $1 billion company into a $10 billion giant just outside Australia's top 10 companies, retired in 2003 with a $5.3 million handshake.

Rod Chadwick: After 37 years with Pacific Dunlop, the ousted CEO collected a total payout of $3.49 million in 2001.

Peter Chernin: negotiated one of the most generous deals of all time when he departed News Corp, including a guaranteed film purchase arrangement.

Sir CK Chow: given a huge package by Brambles chairman Don Argus after the dual listed company merger with GKN in 2001 and then performed terribly but departed with a $7.7 million payout three years later.

Frank Cicutto: hand-picked by Don Argus to succeed him as NAB CEO and then presided over the Homside and foreign exchange debacles before departing in early 2004 with a package reported to be worth $14 million but which did specifically include $6.5 million in termination benefits.

Ian Clack: when punted from Burns Philp in the mid-1990s, the former CEO received a total payout of $7 million.

Roger Corbett:
regarded by some as Australia's best salesman, the former boss of Woolworths departed in 2006 for a cool $3 million.

Chris Cuffe: the former managing director of Colonial First State shocked everyone when his farewell package from Commonwealth Bank in 2003 weighed in at a staggering $32 million.

Tony D'Aloisio:
flicked by the ASX in 2006 after SFE Corp shareholders insisted that their man Rob Ellstone run the combined operation. The $7.8 million payout was just under the level that would have required shareholder approval. And this man is now running ASIC!

Doug Ebert: the long-serving CEO of NAB's Michigan National bank collected a whopping $20.8 million payout and pension when NAB sold it for a $2 billion profit to ABN Amro in 2001. The structure was put in place back in 1995 and at least he created loads of shareholder value, although the current owner of the busines, Royal Bank of Scotland, wouldn't agree now that it is majority government owned.

Dennis Eck: the Coles Myer CEO walked away with $8.65 million in his final year at the retailing giant in 2000-01 and remained on a consultancy deal for several years. This included specific termination benefits worth $4.7 million.

Kim Edwards:
received a lavish $16.6 million pay package, including a termination payment of $5.2 million and a short-term cash bonus of $9.2 million when he left in 2008. That year shareholders voted down the non-binding rem report.

John Ellice-Flint:
ousted from Santos in 2008 with an enormous payout of more than $15 million which assumed all his long-term incentive hurdles had been satisfied. They hadn't.

Duncan Fischer: the former audit signing partner of collapsed property group Estate Mortgage resurrected himself to become CEO of Tattersall's and then departed with a $3.5 million termination payout in 2006 after the Unitab merger when shareholders preferred Dick McIlwain to run the combined business.

John Fletcher
: terminated by Brambles when Don "Don't Argue" Argus took over as chairman and he got precisely the same payout that Dennis Eck enjoyed from Coles Myer. But after a few weeks of golf, Fletch decided he'd like to replace Eck even though he'd not been into a supermarket for 20 years. The underperformance relative to Woolworths was appalling but Fletcher still pocketed about $50 million from running Coles until it was bought by Wesfarmers which is now suffering huge indigestion.

Greg Gailey: departed as Zinifex CEO in 2007 at the very top of the resources bubble and collected a $12.6 million payout based on a share price assumption of almost $20 when it is now back below the equivalent of $5 after the Oxiana merger. Read The Australian's strong coverage.

Brian Gilbertson: punted as BHP-Billiton CEO in early 2003 after initiating merger discussions with Rio Tinto without board approval, the package was estimated at $10 million with the most outrageous element being the $1.5 million indexed pension for life.

Hugh Harris: NAB's former Homeside chief financial officer copped a $4.53 million "performance based" lump sum when terminated for losing $4 billion in 2001 which brought his total pay to a thoroughly undeserved $5.6 million.

Owen Hegarty:
did a great job building Oxiana Resources during the commodities bubble but then disgraced himelf by pocketing an $8.4 million ex gratia termination payout after the Oz Minerals merger, even though shareholders had specifically rejected an earlier $10.7 million payout proposal which was assuming the share price would top $6 by 2012. The stock plunged to below $1 in October 2008 and whilist Hegarty is meant to be chairing the board's integration merger committee, he's already run off and joined the Fortescue Metals board.

David Higgins: the former Lease CEO is now chief executive of the body delivering the London Olympics but gets by nicely with that $6.7 million termination payout when he left the Australian property giant in 2002.

Fred Hilmer:
after almost seven years running Fairfax, the former academic and management consultant collected $4 million in his final year.

Nick Falloon: It is not so bad getting sacked by the Packers when you walk out with $5.27 million which is exactly what happened to the former PBL CEO. A nice round $3 million of this was for "termination".

David Kirk: the Fairfax Media CEO departed in late 2008 and collected a $4 million farewell package which was double what his contract stipulated, as The Australian gleefully reported.

Ted Kunkel: after an entire career at Foster's, we all thought Ted Kunkel was retiring after an excessive 12 years as CEO but instead he walked out with a termination payment worth $3.4 million in April 2004, as The SMH explains.

Keith Lambert: hired to run the business because was the son-in-law of largest shareholder Bob Oatley, the former Foster's strategy chief made a right hash of things and was fired with termination benefits worth $4.4 million in 2003.

Mark McInnes:
one of Australia's youngest and best performed CEOs, he resigned in 2010 from retailer David Jones amid sexual harassment claims. He collected an agreed $1.5 million termination payment and statutory pay of $450,000, totaling $2 million.

Peter Macdonald: might yet go to jail for James Hardie's asbestos dodge and by any measure his $8.2 million termination package after tarnishing a once great Australian corporate brand was outrageous.

Paul Moore: made more than $20 million from his time as CEO of Pacific Brands and after 30 years he hung up the boots in 2007, walking out with a $3.4 million payout. The share price has slumped by more than 95% since his departure.

David Murray: gave 39 years service to the CBA and 13 years as chief executive. His $2.4 million payout is relatively minor in comparison to some peers.

Anthony Palmer: after almost five years at the helm, he resigned as CEO in 2006 and was paid $3.4 million, on top of his $1.4 million salary, to bring his golden handshake to $4.4 million.

Joe Pickett: NAB's former Homeside CEO was fired when he lost $4 billion but still walked out with a handsome $5.8 million in 2001 which included "performance based remuneration" of $4.53 million.

Sheryl Pressler: the ousted head of Lend Lease's US real estate business managed to get her contract paid out in full so she walked away with $15 million in 2001 which was 10 per cent of the company's overall profit in 2000-01.

John Prescott: after almost 40 years with BHP, John Prescott walked away after an 8 years stint as CEO with $11.17 million in his final year back in 1998. The company wrote off about $10 billion thanks to his mistakes so he should have been sacked at least three years earlier.

Tom Park: the former Southcorp CEO only spent 5 months of his 5 year contract with the company but after buying Rosemout for $1.5 billion and bringing the management team in he was redundant but still collected $7.8 million in 2001. Add another $2.3 million that he got the following year and Park's 5 month effort paid him an incredible $10.1 million. Later joined Goodman Fielder where he lined up for another huge whack of options that were paid out when Gary Hart took it over and these days is the highly paid Paperlinx CEO.

Andrew Scott:
after building Centro into a debt-fuelled house of cards, the long-serving CEO was finally flicked in January 2008 with a golden goodbye worth $3 million.

Matthew Slatter:
he presided over the acquisition of the NSW TAB but was given the boot by Tabcorp over its troubled financial performance, but still walked away with $3.2 million.

Mike Tilley: the former investment banker hardly set the world on fire at Challenger Financial Group but pocketed another fortune after his recently renewed five year contract was terminated at short notice in 2008, sparking a $6 million termination benefit on top of the $8.1 million paid in 2007-08.

Sol Trujillo: the former Telstra departed with $9.06 million, with the termination figure at $3million, in his pocket according to Telstra's 2009 remuneration report. He was paid a reported $43 million in less than four years, whilst Telstra's share price fell 30 percent.

George Trumbull: after 3 years causing a lot of damage at AMP, the brash American was finally sacked in August 1999 and walked away with a tidy $12.12 million in his final year. Collected $4.94 million the year before and didn't need to work again.

Lloyd Williams: after PBL bought Crown casino, Lloyd bowed out of PBL with a $375,000 base salary and a $6.92 million "termination payment" bringing the total figure in 1999-2000 to $7.295m. James Packer revealed at the 2000 PBL AGM that an independent arbitrator came up with the figure despite the fact that Lloyd and Kerry were best mates.

Peter Yates: Kerry Packer never really liked the man promoted by his son James to run PBL, but the former Macquarie Banker negotiated himself a water-tight contract and walked out with a $6.5 million payout.

Check out all the Mayne Report business lists here. Go here to see the full comprehensive list of lists we've created documenting the dominance of foreign investors in Australia and our relative poor performance on the international business stage.