Plains CEO stands to earn as much as Freeport top brass

Thu Dec 6, 2012 7:25pm EST

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(Reuters) - James Flores, chief executive of Plains Exploration & Production Co PXP.N, could earn as much in his new role as head of the oil and gas business at Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Co (FCX.N) as his bosses there.

Freeport on Wednesday said it would buy Plains as well as another oil and gas company, McMoRan Exploration Co MMR.N, for $9 billion in a bold bid to diversify into the U.S. energy sector as copper's prospects wane. <ID: nL1E8N52E3>

According to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission on Thursday, Flores' base salary will be no less than that of Chairman Jim Bob Moffett and Chief Executive Richard Adkerson, who each currently receive a salary of $2.5 million.

Flores, who will report directly to Moffett at Freeport, will also be eligible for incentive awards and other bonuses in line with Adkerson and Moffett. Both Adkerson and Moffett received $18.45 million in total direct compensation, including their base salaries of $2.5 million, in 2011, according to Freeport's proxy statement.

The company also disclosed in the filing that Flores agreed to take a payout of Plains restricted stock units that could be worth more than $130 million in the form of stock. It was previously disclosed that Flores would be eligible for a payout of the Plains stock units and reimbursement of taxes that could be worth more than $20 million if Plains were bought.

Flores is also in line to make more than $60 million from Plains shares he already owns.

Freeport on Thursday also disclosed the size of the termination fees of the two deals in the filing. Should Plains walk away from its deal, it could owe a breakup fee of $207 million or up to $69 million to reimburse of deal costs to Freeport in some situations.

Should McMoRan walk away from its deal, it could owe a breakup fee of $98 million or up to $19.5 million to reimburse deal costs to Freeport in some situations.

(Reporting By Michael Erman; Editing by Bernard Orr and Leslie Adler)

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