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Heinz CEO Johnson Would Get $200 Million in Post-Berkshire Exit

Bill Johnson, chairman and chief executive officer of H.J. Heinz Co. Johnson’s total compensation in the fiscal year ended in March was $16.2 million, including $1.3 million of salary. Photographer: Lake Fong/Bloomberg
Bill Johnson, chairman and chief executive officer of H.J. Heinz Co. Johnson’s total compensation in the fiscal year ended in March was $16.2 million, including $1.3 million of salary. Photographer: Lake Fong/Bloomberg

H.J. Heinz Co. Chief Executive Officer Bill Johnson could receive more than $200 million should he exit after Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. and Jorge Paulo Lemann’s 3G Capital Inc. buy the ketchup maker.

Johnson, 64, would get “Golden Parachute Compensation” including $56 million in cash, equity, bonuses and other benefits, the Pittsburgh-based company said in a regulatory filing. Other shares under Johnson’s control are worth almost $100 million, while his vested deferred compensation account totals $57 million.

Johnson, who became Heinz’s sixth CEO in 1998, has made about 40 acquisitions, helping expand the company into emerging markets. He streamlined the brand portfolio, boosted spending on marketing and ratcheted up innovation, including Dip & Squeeze ketchup packs. Heinz boosted sales to $11.7 billion in fiscal 2012, a gain of 8.8 percent from the year before.

“The payments reflect Mr. Johnson’s success in creating billions of dollars in shareholder value over his successful 15-year tenure as President and CEO,” Michael Mullen, a Heinz spokesman, said by e-mail. “This compensation consists of equity that Mr. Johnson accumulated over his 30-year career with Heinz and existing equity awards and contractual rights that were in place well before the announcement of the proposed merger.”

Berkshire and 3G will pay $72.50 a share for Heinz, about 20 percent more than the $60.48 closing price Feb. 13, before the deal was announced. The company’s existing debt will be rolled over, valuing the transaction at $28 billion, according to a previous statement.

‘Too Young’

Heinz was little changed at $72.48 at the close in New York.

Johnson’s total compensation in the fiscal year ended in March was $16.2 million, including $1.3 million of salary.

After announcing the deal Feb. 14, Buffett told CNBC he hoped Johnson would remain CEO. In a conference call after the deal was announced, Johnson said he was “way too young” to retire. Still, Buffett told CNBC that 3G has the final say.

Johnson worked at Ralston, Frito-Lay and Anderson-Clayton Foods before joining Heinz in 1982 as a general manager of new business. In 1988, as head of the poorly performing Heinz Pet Products, he revived the business. Four years later he did the same thing at Starkist Foods. Johnson was named president and chief operating officer in 1996.

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