Efforts to reach RJR Nabisco executives Thursday were unsuccessful. But in a recent interview with Time magazine, Johnson, whose personal portion of the profits might have been as much as $1 billion under his failed bid, said he planned to share the profits with 15,000 company employees.
"When you think about it, Johnson has done a good job for them," said Neal Kaplan, an analyst with Interstate/Johnson Lane in Charlotte, N.C., who credits Johnson with nearly doubling the stock price from the start of the bidding war.
Kaplan described the controversial chief executive as "talented, arrogant, competent, tough--and successful. He's been taken over a couple times and ended up in the top position. That's a pretty nice talent."
Kaplan was referring to two previous situations--once, when Johnson was head of Standard Brands, which was taken over by Nabisco, and more recently when Nabisco was taken over by R.J. Reynolds. In each case, he seemed to beat the odds and emerge as chief executive after the merger.
Debt May Be Huge
While it appears that Johnson's third merger may not prove charmed, he nonetheless stands to survive in comfortable shape. According to documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the executive received $1.73 million in salary and bonuses for 1987.
His severance arrangement or "golden parachute" guarantees that he be paid through 1991, at which time he becomes eligible for retirement benefits.
On the minus side, Johnson's losing team may owe banks and attorneys an undisclosed sum of fees related to the bid, which according to some observers could easily exceed $1 million.
According to one source close to the transaction, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts on Thursday asked the special committee whether the company would compensate Johnson for the fees. The special committee knew of no such agreement, the source related.
In any case, as analyst Kaplan pointed out, "If he (Johnson) walks away with millions of dollars, it's hard to say he lost a lot."