retail news in context, analysis with attitude

Yesterday, in a story that I filed under the "Executive Sweet" section, I took note of stories in several places about how Wayne Sales, the CEO of Supervalu for all of eight months (during which time he engineered the sale of the company to Cerberus), is walking away from the job with $12.8 million, and that a trio of executives with the company - who already got retention bonuses - have been given a total of $9 million in golden parachutes "that would be made when those executives are terminated from their positions within two years of the date the sale of the company closes."

I commented that even before I got a chance to post the story on MNB, I was getting emails from Supervalu employees that can be summed up in three letters: "WTF?"

Here are some of the emails I've gotten.

From one MNB user:

This change of control deal is the crowning jewel celebrating six years of mismanagement by the “Country Club” in the executive suite.  SV employees have been denied bonuses, minimal if any salary increases, have had every benefit of working in the office (no coffee!) taken away in the spirit of reducing costs.  Mr. Sales was chairman of the board overseeing this debacle since the purchase of Albertsons, was contributing factor to the hiring of Mr. Herkert, and then broke the company up. 

What did he do to earn $12.5 million?  This is unconscionable.  He reminds me of Chainsaw Al Dunlop.  He even had the audacity to tell us when asked what he would do next (after Sam Duncan takes over as CEO), he said he “hoped to be hired back on the board."

We have spent millions and millions of dollars on consultants doing what the executives were hired to do.  And what do the employees get for the sacrifices we made carrying his business on our backs?  Absolutely nothing.  What does the “Country Club” get?  Millions of dollars for doing absolutely nothing.

As a shareholder I am outraged.  If a suit were to be brought by shareholders against Mr. Sales, the key executives and the board, aka the “Country Club”, I would gladly join.  In fact, I am so pissed at all of this, I may want to initiate the suit myself.

From another reader:

And they ain't through yet. Wait until the board members resign to make room for Cerberus' board members. You can be pretty sure they will reward themselves handsomely.

You would never know that company was in trouble.

The front line people get screwed again.

And another:

I agree with those ‘WTF?’ emails you may be getting.

As a former employee – I can’t imagine how my family and friends still working there are feeling.  I know for a fact that they were told a few months ago that there would not be any pay increases, bonuses (if eligible) or 401K matches this year (not to mention those who lost jobs due to ‘cost efficiencies’).  But it’s okay to pay out MILLIONS to people who ran the company to the ground, followed by selling it off?!?!?!?!?!   Guess we know where all those ‘cost savings’ went!

And still another:

As a rank and file employee of Supervalu, I have a lot more to say than WTF.

Words that I was taught not to say because I am a lady. And nice people don’t say those words.

I mean I understand the concept of paying top executives good money to keep good people. But what the every living blue bloody blazes did Wayne Sale do for Supervalu that any monkey in a nice suit couldn’t have done? And for the price of a barge of bananas.
I guess we all know where our 401K match went. Right into Mr. Sales pocket. Enjoy our retirement money Mr. Sales, we may all just end up camping out on your doorstep.

From another MNB reader:

It’s comforting to know that my eliminated 401(k) match, any bonus and pay increase for this year went to our top executives once again. No, we’re not in this together!

And still another:

So sad to think this could even be true!  I’ve been with the company for 12 years and can't even get an annual raise!  We keep getting told there’s no money for this or that, these people made more money in 6 months than I will in a life time!

Thanks for publishing MNB and making me laugh or smile each morning!

And maybe even cry sometimes, I'm guessing.

Let's be specific about this.

On November 19, 2012, MNB posted the contents of an email circulated to Supervalu employees. It said, in part:

There will be no 2013 merit pay increases for salaried team members. "Additionally," he wrote, "hourly team members in our corporate, banner, region and distribution center offices will not receive a merit pay increase. This does not impact store hourly or store pharmacy positions, or hourly operational distribution center roles. Promotions and job changes will continue to be recognized with pay changes where appropriate."

"Subject to any applicable laws, the frequency at which some team members are paid will change in early 2013. Today, all team members are paid on a weekly basis. Next year some salaried team members will transition to a bi-weekly pay schedule and others to a monthly schedule. If the frequency of your pay changes, we will give you advanced notice as to when this takes effect."

"Our service anniversary awards program (years of service pins and PRO points for milestone awards), as it exists today will be discontinued. We will look for meaningful ways to recognize service and performance for our team members."

And now, all the people who were asked to take the hit, to be patient and dedicated as leadership sought to straighten out the business, have to read that the top folks are getting millions while they have to remain patient and dedicated.

Not to overstate it, but this is disgusting.

I'm not against people making money, and I'm not against top executives being rewarded handsomely for their efforts. But this just seems so out of proportion, and such a smack in the faces of people who often are struggling to make a living, that it is hard to find any justification for it.

This seems like such an obvious case of people feathering their own nests without any regard for the front line personnel who are charged with making the business work on a day to day basis. It strikes me as unconscionable.

I am not a litigious person by nature. But I read about these bonuses and I think about the threat made in one of the emails I received. I have to concur.

Maybe they should sue the bastards.
KC's View: