Carol Bartz gets a golden goodbye from Yahoo!

Carol Bartz is probably still smarting after she was fired over the phone as Yahoo CEO, but to ease her pain, she will still walk away with millions.

Despite having been unceremoniously shown the door with a curt phone call, Carol Bartz will enjoy what can only be described as a golden goodbye from Yahoo. Bartz will walk away from Yahoo with $3 mn in cash, plus a partial bonus for 2011 that will be valued between $1 mn to $2 mn.

Even before she was fired, public filings show that for 2009 alone, Bartz was rewarded with a not inconsequential $47.2 m in compensation.

In a bit of twisted luck, Bartz's compensation also includes $5 mn in Yahoo stock, and the stock market greeted her departure with approval, boosting Yahoo's value by more than 4 percent.

However, there is still more in the Bartz' parting gift package: As a sweetener when was hired, she received a stock option package of up to 5 mn shares. She can collect on those shares, but she'll only be able to vest in them if they hit price targets ranging from $17.60 to $35.19. At the moment, YHOO is trading at $13.61, so it has a way to go before Bartz can vest.

 Carol Bartz gets a golden goodbye from Yahoo!

Not short of a penny or two after her ouster from Yahoo.

No one will be cheering on her successor more than Carol Bartz herself.

A history of excess
Yahoo has a history of shockingly high executive compensation. Terry Semel, who ran the company from 2001 to 2007, received almost a half of billion dollars, $489.6 mn in total compensation, for six years.

During that time, he passed up a chance to buy Google two years before it went public. They balked at paying $5 bn for the company, even though they had paid $5.7 bn for just few years earlier.

Semel had been a deal-maker as head of Warner Brothers, but once he joined Yahoo, he went from haggler to haggard, passing up historic deal after historic deal, including Facebook and YouTube.

Instead of buying Google he tried to compete by buying Inktomi and Overture. However, the company ran into integration troubles, and its vaunted ad-based search platform, Project Panama, came late to the game.

Semel's compensation over three years was 926 percent higher than the median pay to CEOs of companies similar to Yahoo and, coupled with poor performance, lead to a shareholder backlash. Eric Jackson, representing a group of Yahoo shareholders, challenged Semel at Yahoo's 2007 annual meeting, saying, "I am surprised that you didn't apologize for the last three years of performance."

Bartz hasn't raked in quite as much money as Semel, but Yahoo! shareholders have to be hoping that there's someone out there, somewhere, who can do a better job. But whoever ends up in the top job at Yahoo, at least they know that they'll be well paid, whether they succeed or fail.

For most of us, if we do a bad job, we lose it with little thanks. But time and again we see executives performing terribly and being showered with parting gifts. It is a wonder that we talk about a 'culture of entitlement' for those on public benefits, while our politics seem completely incapable of talking about the executive entitlement culture.

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