First Solar’s CEO Made More Money than Chevron Chief

First Solar Inc.’s (NASDAQ:FSLR) chief executive officer Rob Gillette stepped down this week. It looks like he may be eligible for an $8.9 million severance package with $2.55 million in cash and $19,111 in medical benefits. The package also includes $6.33 million in stock compensation. He also received $29.9 million in his first 15 months. He was being rewarded as the company’s shares fell 60 percent since he started in October 2009. Gillette’s pay also included a $5 million signing bonus to keep him from Honeywell International Inc. The U.S. government gave First Solar $3.07 billion in loan guarantees for projects using its technology.

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Expert and Bloomberg News consultant, Graef Crystal said in an interview, “Gillette’s compensation was unusually front-loaded, so when it came time to throw him out he had them on the hook for a lot of money. This wasn’t pay for performance; it was pay for future performance.”

Chevron Corp (NYSE:CVX) CEO John Watson earned at least 19 percent less than Gillette during this same time. The company’s shares also grew 54 percent. Watson was paid $8.8 million in 2009 and $16.3 million 2010.

On October 25, First Solar named Chairman Michael Ahearn interim CEO. The following day he greatly reduced sales and profit forecasts for 2011. He also plans to diminish capital spending. Gillette was not the only high level executive to leave this year. Bruce Sohn, president of operations, and Jens Meyerhoff, president of its utility systems unit, also stepped down.

  • First Solar, Inc.(NASDAQ:FSLR): The shares closed at $52.90, on the day. They have traded in a 52-week range of $42.50 to $175.45. Volume today was 2,636 shares versus a 3-month average volume of 3,480,690 shares. The company’s trailing P/E is 9.02, while trailing earnings are $5.87 per share. About the company: First Solar, Inc. designs and manufactures solar modules. The Company uses a thin film semiconductor technology to manufacture electricity-producing solar modules.

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