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Potash CEO exercises $1.26-million of options

Potash Corp. CEO Bill Doyle

DAVID STOBBE/DAVID STOBBE/REUTERS

Bill Doyle is putting his money - $1.26-million of it - where his mouth is.

Less than two months after predicting Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan stock price would "blow the doors off" its previous record high of about $240 (U.S.), Mr. Doyle exercised 124,100 stock options Tuesday.

The options, which Potash Corp. issued to Mr. Doyle a decade ago, had an exercise price of $10.16 and were set to expire Sunday, so Mr. Doyle was in use-them-or-lose them mode. Earlier this year, Mr. Doyle exercised a batch of nearly 200,000 options from that same grant for pretax profits of $17.5-million.

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In contrast to that earlier transaction, however, Mr. Doyle has not sold the underlying shares that he acquired Tuesday, notes Potash Corp. spokesman Bill Johnson. Mr. Johnson declined further comment.

Mr. Doyle is sitting on a paper gain of more than $15-million on the shares he has just acquired.

His profits are a function of his long tenure at the company, its long track record of share-price appreciation, and the key role stock options have played in Potash Corp.'s compensation packages.

Mr. Doyle joined the company in 1987, and, thanks to stock splits, has accumulated annual option grants in the hundreds of thousands of shares. Even after Tuesday's transaction, Mr. Doyle still has more than 2.9 million options worth more than $300-million (Canadian) at Wednesday's closing price of $139.15.

Over the last 20 years, Potash Corp. stock has returned nearly 15,000 per cent. Over the past decade, the time period covered by the options exercised by Mr. Doyle, the total return is more than 1,700 per cent in U.S.-dollar terms. (As a Chicago-based executive, Mr. Doyle's options are denominated in U.S. dollars.) The compensation for Potash Corp. executives raised eyebrows during the recent attempted takeover by BHP Billiton Ltd.

A Globe and Mail examination estimated that top executives and board members would reap more than $700-million (Canadian) in stock proceeds, severance and other compensation at the proposed buyout price of $130 (U.S.) Stephen Jarislowsky of Jarislowsky Fraser Ltd., a Potash Corp. shareholder, has called it "obscene" because he believes the company's share price has been driven by world demand for the commodity potash.

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About the Author
Business and investing reporter and columnist

A business journalist since 1994, David Milstead began writing for The Globe and Mail in 2009. During eight years at the Rocky Mountain News in Denver, Colo., he individually or jointly won nine national awards from SABEW, the Society of American Business Editors and Writers. He has also worked at the Wall Street Journal. More

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