Meg Whitman, as the new CEO and president of the Hewlett-Packard Co., will be getting $1 in base salary, a target annual bonus of $2.4 million for HP's 2012 fiscal year, and an option to buy 1.9 million shares of the company's stock at $23.59 apiece under certain conditions.
Whitman will not be able to cash in on the first tranche of 900,000 shares until about a year from now, at the earliest. The vesting of the option is tied to both her continued service at HP and the performance of the company's stock in the market. If HP's share price does not reach certain specified levels during her tenure, Whitman will not be in a position to exercise all or part of the option.
As the case of the recently fired HP CEO Leo Apotheker shows, however, even an executive sacked for lackluster performance can be in the position of reaping huge payouts under a generous severance agreement. Apotheker, who was CEO for less than 11 months, was terminated after cutting sales forecasts three times and making strategy shifts that blindsided investors.
Whitman is already a billionaire who ran unsuccessfully in the California gubernatorial election last year.
The new HP CEO faces a stiff challenge as she seeks to enhance revenue while placating the investors who endured a 47% fall in HP's share price under Apotheker. HP’s market value has dropped by $60 billion since CEO Mark Hurd was forced out in August of last year over an ethics scandal.
Whitman joined HP’s board in January. She served as CEO and president of eBay from 1998 to 2008. Previously, Whitman was an executive at the toy company Hasbro Inc., floral service FTD.com Inc., footwear maker Stride Rite, and media giant Walt Disney Co. Whitman, 55, is recognized for helping build eBay into the world’s largest Internet auctioneer, with a current market value of about $38 billion.