Dell to pay $48.5M to ousted CEO

Dell plans to pay its former CEO Kevin Rollins $48 million for his stock options once it completes an accounting audit, the company said Wednesday.

Dell will pay former CEO Kevin Rollins US$48.5 million for his stock options six months after he resigned in the wake of investor criticism about the vendor losing market share to rival Hewlett-Packard.

The award is far greater than Rollins' original severance package of just US$5 million, to be paid in installments through April 2008.

Dell plans to make the new payment within 45 days after filing a long overdue annual report for its 2007 fiscal year, the company reported Wednesday in a filing to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

However, it is unclear when that will happen, since Dell has already missed deadlines for filing its past three quarterly earnings reports, called Form 10-Qs, and the annual report, Form 10-K. That behavior has earned the company a series of warnings that the Nasdaq stock exchange may stop trading Dell securities.

Dell defends itself by saying it cannot file the missing papers until it completes an internal audit to comply with accounting investigations by the SEC and the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York. Dell has already admitted finding "evidence of misconduct" in the audit.

Rollins is a former management consultant who joined Dell in 1996, holding a number of executive titles before ascending to the CEO's chair in July 2004. He stepped down at the end of January 2007 when company founder Michael Dell returned to day-to-day management of the corporation, pledging to recapture Dell's market position and profitability, fend off an investor lawsuit and cooperate with the SEC probe.

Once back as CEO Dell made a number of swift changes, replacing much of his senior management team and eliminating salary bonuses. He begun selling Dell PCs in Wal-Mart and other retail stores, breaking with the famous direct sales model that once allowed the company to grow so fast. In another major change, Dell, which has made very few acquisitions, has recently been busy buying companies including SilverBack Technologies, the ASAP Software division of Corporate Express, and Zing Systems.

In May, Dell announced it had made a profit of US$759 million for the first quarter of its fiscal 2008, down slightly from the US$762 million it had earned for the same period last year. That success came at a steep cost, however, as Dell announced the same day that it would lay off 8,800 workers, about 10 percent of its work force.

On Wednesday, the board explained that it had calculated Rollins' new payment of US$48,462,495 by awarding him the cash value of his 7.4 million vested stock options. The company has frozen such "in-the-money" stock options for all its employees for the duration of its accounting investigation.

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