Photographer: Andrey Rudakov/Bloomberg

Atlas Energy Pays CEO $73 Million Cash, Becomes Penny Stock

  • Oil and gas company’s stock has plunged 95% in past year
  • Payouts to executives stem from merger with Targa Resources

Atlas Energy Group LLC, a developer of oil and gas assets, paid Chief Executive Officer Ed Cohen $73.2 million in cash prior to its collapse and suspension from trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

Cohen, 77, was among at least five executives who received cash payouts related to Atlas’ merger with Targa Resources Corp., according to data compiled by Bloomberg from a Tuesday proxy statement. The company’s shares have plunged 95 percent in the past twelve months. Leon Cooperman is among the company’s largest investors, according to an April filing.

Cohen’s payments included $38.5 million for cash-out of equity awards and a $32.5 million severance, the filing shows. His son, Chairman Jonathan Z. Cohen, 45, received a $30.6 million cash-out and a $30.9 million severance.

The company consulted with Mercer Inc. on its compensation plans, the filing shows. Ellen F. Warren, 59, chairs its compensation committee. Mark C. Biderman, 70, and Dennis Holtz, 76, also sit on the committee. Those three directors each received slightly less than $300,000 in compensation last year, the filing shows. Three other directors who have served since the merger received an average $151,443.

The median compensation for directors of companies in the Russell 3000 Index is $184,000, according to data compiled by Bloomberg from company filings. Companies in that index have a median market value of $1.45 billion. Atlas has a market value of $11 million.

Cooperman declined to comment on Atlas. He generally agrees with Warren Buffett on executive pay, and compensation in the U.S. "is basically out of control," he said. He cited Philippe Dauman, CEO of Viacom Inc., which Cooperman doesn’t own, as someone who is doing "a terrible job, he’s making a fortune."

Matthew Skelly, a spokesman for the Pittsburgh-based company, didn’t return calls and e-mails seeking comment.

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