Kloppers' exit eased with $75m handshake

OUTGOING chief executive Marius Kloppers will take cash, shares and performance rights worth up to $75.2 million at current prices when he leaves BHP Billiton.

OUTGOING chief executive Marius Kloppers will take cash, shares and performance rights worth up to $75.2 million at current prices when he leaves BHP Billiton.

Mr Kloppers, 50, this week outlined plans to retire as chief in May after almost six years in the job. He will remain an employee of the company until October.

If paid, it will count as one of the most generous exit packages in Australian history, topped only by the $80 million package reportedly received by former Macquarie Bank managing director Allan Moss, but beating previous payouts including to Colonial First State's Chris Cuffe ($33 million), Santos' John Ellice-Flint ($16.8 million), and PBL's John Alexander ($15 million).

Mr Kloppers' predecessor Chip Goodyear reportedly left with entitlements of $60 million, while ousted BHP chief Brian Gilbertson received a $12 million payout.

Mr Kloppers, after remaining chief executive for most of 2012-13, and subject to various performance criteria, will be eligible for a bonus under BHP's short-term incentive plan, paid in cash and shares, worth up to 3.2 times his base salary of $US2.215 million, or a maximum of $6.9 million.

Under BHP's long-term incentive plan, Mr Kloppers also has rights - effectively, zero exercise price options - to 917,324 BHP shares if the company outperforms a comparator group of major mining companies by 5.5 per cent a year for five years.

The rights were awarded over four years from 2009 to 2012 and, assuming BHP meets the performance hurdles, Mr Kloppers will receive the shares progressively in tranches from August 2014 to August 2017. At Thursday's closing price for BHP of $37.17, those shares are worth $34.1 million.

He will not be granted any further share rights this year.

In August - prior to his departure - Mr Kloppers may also receive another 500,000 shares awarded in 2008 under the long-term scheme, depending on BHP's performance over the five years to 2013.

Lastly, over his decade at the company Mr Kloppers has also accumulated almost a million BHP shares held directly or indirectly through family superannuation funds.

At the most recent directors' interest disclosure in December, Mr Kloppers held 628,982 shares in BHP's London-listed company, worth £13.7 million ($20 million) at Wednesday's closing price, and another 373,535 shares in the Australian listed entity which are worth $13.9 million.

A BHP spokesman said Mr Kloppers' entitlements had been approved by shareholders and any 2012-13 bonus would be determined by BHP's remuneration committee and reported in September.

BHP has typically paid about two-thirds of the maximum bonus, but last year Mr Kloppers waived a bonus due to writedowns associated with the Fayetteville shale acquisition in the US.

The BHP spokesman said the number of shares awarded under the long-term incentive plan to employees who retired were reduced by the period of service, in relation to each grant.

"Marius's awards made in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 will therefore be pro-rata'd according to the rules of the plan, and in each case must be held for the full five years," she said.

Mr Kloppers will also be entitled to his defined contribution pension that has accumulated over his period of service. He will not receive a severance payment, the spokesman said.

Governance analyst Martin Lawrence, of Ownership Matters, said since remuneration laws were overhauled in 2009 it had become "much harder to shower [departing] CEOs with money, without shareholder approval".

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