You haven’t lived until you’ve spent two weeks locked in a conference room with 20 lawyers and analysts wordsmithing an SEC S-1 prospectus line by line in preparation for an IPO. Colonoscopies, jury duty and listening to Alyssa Milano are fun by comparison.
Wait, it gets better. After you submit the first draft to the SEC, the regulators will invariably come back with seven or eight hundred cryptic comments, so you get to do it all over again to fix every last one of them or your IPO is a no-go.
I got to go through that fun-filled process a few times. And no sir, I didn’t like it, to quote Mr. Horse from Ren & Stimpy.
Not sure what got me thinking about that but it may have had something to do with ousted Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg exiting with about $80 million after the 737 MAX debacle.
Bet you were pretty rankled by an executive arguably responsible for two crashes and hundreds of lives walking away with all that dough. You and everyone else, considering all the media coverage of Muilenberg’s big payday:
CNN: Boeing’s fired CEO could walk away with a $60 million golden parachute
Quartz: Boeing’s fired CEO keeps $80 million in pay and benefits despite crashes, cover ups, and scandal
NY Times: Fired Boeing C.E.O. Will Receive More Than $60 million
While one or two of the headlines were accurate, they all made it sound like all those millions are from some sort of exit package. They’re not. Not even a little.
Just about every penny of the reported compensation was deferred or long-term comp, pension distributions or vested stock options duly owed Muilenberg from 35 years of employment at Boeing.
He voluntarily forfeited an annual bonus worth more than $10 million back in November, as well as all his unvested shares and options valued at about $15 million when he agreed to step down.
There was no exit package, golden parachute or severance pay, at least not in the sense that should make any of you wince at the injustice of it all. What he got was just. Period.
Don’t get me wrong – some messed up stuff went down on Muilenberg’s watch. He lost his job and a lot of dough over it. Even made my Worst CEOs of 2019 list. The company has a lot of work to do to build back its reputation. And that’s all as it should be.
But that doesn’t mean the guy doesn’t get to keep what he earned, what he’s owed, from decades of hard work that created a lot of jobs, shareholder value and happy customers. Or that the media should portray his exit in a negative way and feed the loony millionaires and billionaires frenzy that has half the nation believing capitalism is bad and socialism is great.
So what’s that got to do with my IPO experience?
For nearly a decade I was a paid columnist – not exclusively, mind you, but it was a big part of my work and compensation. A couple of years ago I gave it up and I couldn’t be happier. The media biz is way too screwed up – getting it right inevitably loses out to getting eyeballs and clicks.
And the IPO flashback is a good reminder that my worst days working in the business world are infinitely better than anything else I can imagine doing for work – especially writing for a media whose quality and credibility continues to deteriorate year after year. I’d rather blog for free.