It’s Gerald Grinstein, CEO of Delta Airlines, who emerged from retirement to lead that company through and out of bankruptcy. According to today’s Wall Street Journal, Delta will come out of bankruptcy this spring with a market cap of $10 billion. Grinstein will continue to collect his annual salary of $338,000 until he leaves the company this summer. He won’t get a raise, he won’t get a bonus, he won’t get any options, he won’t get any stock. Grinstein bears no responsibility for the company’s troubles, and deserves much of the credit for its turnaround. When you think of all the CEOs who take piles of money and stock when they’re leading the company into the swamp, more while it’s there, and a gargantuan amount if they succeed in pulling it out, Grinstein’s restraint is even more remarkable. Of course he’s already got tons of money from a long business career. But so do these other fellas (mostly fellas). That is one of the puzzles of the CEO salary racket: it would cost many of these CEOs virtually nothing in terms of their lifestyle to refrain from porking out, and it would pay off big-time if there is any status to be derived in their world from smelling like a rose. But I guess that in their world status derives more from smelling like money.
Disclosure: Grinstein lives in Seattle, as do I, and he is an acquaintance. It will just get me into trouble, but I have to add that his willingness to spend several years in Atlanta, where Delta is located, when he lives in Seattle is more evidence that he is a good guy.