Times like this, it’s best to be direct: I owe NStar chief executive officer Tom May a sincere apology.
I owe an apology because I spent a barrel of ink last fall highlighting his $7.9 million annual compensation package. I reported that he’ll get millions in stock if and when a proposed merger with Northeast Utilities goes through and that he is entitled to another $10.2 million in severance, which probably won’t be necessary because he has guaranteed himself the chief executive’s job of a combined company.
I may also have implied that Tom May could very well be the most overpaid executive in Boston, given that he works in a government-regulated industry in which his “customers’’ have no real choice where they get their electricity or natural gas. I regret that, as well.
I apologize for all this because I have since learned about an energy/utility executive with strong Boston ties who makes even more than Tom May of NStar and is far less impressive. I’m sorry, but who in their right mind could ever have imagined this?
His name is Mayo Shattuck III, and when the authoritative book about the absurd income disparities that have come to dominate America in the early 2000s is written, his smiling face will almost certainly be on the cover.
Raised in Cohasset and Hingham, educated at Williams, he is now the chief executive of the Baltimore-based Constellation Energy Group, which happens to own four power generating plants around Boston, three in Everett and another in Weymouth.
But enough of the pleasantries, because here’s what Mayo Shattuck III was paid in 2010: $15.7 million. That’s $301,000 a week, or almost exactly twice poor Tom May’s package. So the Constellation Energy Group must be an unbelievably well-run company, right? Well, no. Actually, the company lost $1 billion one recent year, barely avoided bankruptcy, aborted one merger already, and saw its stock plunge from over $100 a share to the low $20s, all with Mayo Shattuck III at the helm.
The Maryland governor has complained about Mayo Shattuck III’s pay, as has the editorial page of the Baltimore Sun, members of the Maryland Legislature, and some of the largest Constellation shareholders, but to no avail. Mayo Shattuck III also chairs the company’s board, the same board that sets his pay, whose members make a minimum of $195,000 a year in cash and stock for nominal work.
Even the company that Constellation is currently merging with, Chicago-based Exelon Corp., has sent hints that it doesn’t want any part of him, but has agreed to make him executive chairman just to get the deal done.
So what is Mayo Shattuck III good at? Golf. And at that, he’s great, sporting a handicap so low that a leading golf magazine ranked him as one of the 10 best golfing CEOs in the nation. For that honor, his board probably gave him another raise.
I bring all this up because of some alarming calls I’ve recently received from rank-and-file workmen at the various Constellation plants. They’ve begun contract negotiations with management and fear cuts and changes in their health care and lower manning levels at the plants, all while Shattuck is off at his country club refining his swing. Their pensions have already been frozen. “The staffing has dropped dramatically,’’ said Bruce Morris, an instrument engineer in Everett. “They don’t have enough people working there.’’
By the way, a very nice Constellation spokesman sent an e-mail yesterday saying, “Our employees currently enjoy good pay and benefits, and we don’t expect that to change.’’
I hope that’s true. But in light of all this, I never thought I would say it, but give me Tom May and hold the Mayo.