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Notebook Business


Sharing the wealth

Ford CEO receives $18 million bonus in lieu of an annual salary

Imagine heading up one of the nation's largest corporations, one with more than 300,000 employees, and not accepting a penny in salary for four years.

That's the case at Ford Motor Company where Bill Ford took over as chief executive in 2001 on the condition that his compensation be based on the performance of the company.

That plan paid off last week as the board of directors rewarded Mr. Ford with an $18 million bonus in stock grants and options after the company increased its revenues by more than $3 billion last year.

Mr. Ford, whose great-grandfather Henry Ford started the company in 1903, pledged to give $1.5 million to a fund that helps Ford employees pay for their children's college tuition. Last week, he said he planned to give another $1.5 million to the scholarship fund, as well as another $1.5 million in stock equivalents to local charities.

"Funding scholarships for employees' children seems appropriate since in the end my performance is really a measure of your efforts," Mr. Ford told company employees by e-mail.

The company also announced that more than 6,000 managers and another 34,500 lower-level salaried employees would receive bonuses this year. Ford also paid $600 profit-sharing checks for 2004 to hourly employees.

Long-distance order

Soon, the person taking your order at the world's largest restaurant chain may be located in another city, another state, or even another country.

McDonald's Corp. has begun testing the use of remote call centers to handle drive-thru orders. Initially, the call centers are being tested at a small number of restaurants in the Pacific Northwest.

"If you're in L.A. and you hear a person . . . with a North Dakota accent taking your order, you'll know what we're up to," said McDonald's CEO Jim Skinner.

Company officials hope the call centers will help individual restaurants process orders faster and reduce the number of errors. "You [will] have a professional order taker with strong communications skills whose job is to do nothing but take down orders," said Matthew Paull, the company's chief financial officer.

McDonald's currently operates more than 13,500 restaurants in the United States and more than 30,000 worldwide. A company spokesman said it's still too early to say whether the outsourcing strategy would be implemented system-wide.

Balance Sheet

· The long-awaited successor to Disney CEO Michael Eisner will be Robert Iger. The 54-year-old Mr. Iger, who has served as Disney's president since 2000, is expected to take charge Oct. 1, ending Mr. Eisner's stormy 21-year reign as chief executive.

· With the price of crude oil rising steadily, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries announced plans to boost production. In the past five weeks, prices have increased nearly 20 percent.

· Despite an increase in exports during January, the U.S. trade deficit climbed to $58.3 billion, the second-highest level in history. Much of the imbalance came from an increase in imports of foreign cars and auto parts.

· The soaring cost of fuel has caused most major U.S. airlines to increase fares in recent weeks, including American, America West, Continental, Delta, Northwest, and Southwest. Rate increases have varied from $1 to $20 each way.

· Discount broker Charles Schwab Corp. sued rival T.D. Waterhouse last week, claiming the company's advertisements have libeled Schwab. The suit seeks a court order to ban the ads that, Schwab says, label it a high-priced firm with low-quality service.