Bankrupt NWA Paid CEO $1.8M in 2006

MINNEAPOLIS -- Northwest Airlines Chief Executive Doug Steenland received compensation the company valued at $1.8 million last year as it restructured under bankruptcy protection.

Steenland's pay included a base salary of $516,384, down about 10 percent from the year before. The bulk of his pay - $994,146 - came from long-term cash award programs, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission on Monday. He also received $297,353 in perquisites and other compensation.

Chief Financial Officer Neal Cohen and operations chief Andrew Roberts both got base pay raises last year. Both now make $401,625, a 5 percent raise for Cohen and a 24 percent raise for Roberts.

Pay is an explosive topic at Northwest, where union workers are putting in longer hours for less money, enough to add up to $1.4 billion a year in savings.

In its filing, Northwest Airlines Corp. said its executives have given something up, too. Managers took a 15 percent cut in their base salaries in December 2004, and another 10 percent cut in December 2005, after Northwest filed for bankruptcy protection.

It also said its executives are losing some of their stock-based compensation. It said their stock options will soon be worthless because Northwest's old shares will be canceled when it emerges from bankruptcy protection, expected in June. And in November 2005, it canceled outstanding restricted shares and so-called phantom stock awards worth $3.8 million for Steenland, and $879,000 to $2.09 million for other executives.

However, Northwest executives will own some 4.9 percent of the company once it emerges from bankruptcy, according to earlier disclosures. The equity will be given as restricted stock and options.

The Associated Press calculations of total pay include executives' salary, bonus, incentives, perks, above-market returns on deferred compensation (which Northwest didn't pay) and the estimated value of stock options and awards granted during the year.

The disclosure of its executive pay comes as flight attendants prepare to vote on concessions that would save the company $195 million a year. Northwest has already gotten concessions that save it that amount, but by agreeing to a new contract flight attendants could get bankruptcy claims worth as much as $18,000 per worker.

A timetable for the vote has not been set, but union spokesman Andy Wisbacher said it's expected to wrap up in late May.

Referring to Northwest executives, he said, "They took concessions, but it looks like they're going to get almost four times their concessions back with the executive stock plan that they announced a few weeks back." Meanwhile, flight attendants will get back at most about a year's worth of what they gave up over a contract that will run through the end of 2011 if it's approved, he said.

"They take concessions that are kind of in line with the rest of labor when times are tough," Wisbacher said, but when the airline is successful "their bonuses and stock options are exponentially higher than what employees get."

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