AT&T chief's retirement package: $158.5M

Telecommunications company says Edward Whitacre, a 43-year veteran of AT&T, has helped the firm outperform its peers, newspaper reports.

NEW YORK ( -- AT&T Inc. Chief Executive Edward Whitacre will be given one of the highest-paying retirement packages in 2007, weighing in at $158.5 million, a newspaper reported Friday.

Whitacre announced that he will retire on June 3 from the world's largest telecommunications company. The board had selected current chief operating officer Randall Stephenson to replace him as both chief executive and chairman, he said.

According to a proxy filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Whitacre's retirement package will include $24,000 in annual automobile benefits, $6,500 each year for "home security," access to AT&T's (Charts, Fortune 500) corporate jet for 10 hours a month and $25,000 to cover his country-club fees, The Wall Street Journal said.

Whitacre, who has been with the company for 43 years, and his family will also receive free health insurance for life, while AT&T will pay the taxes on most of the benefits. During his retirement, he will also be paid a little over $1 million for three years for work as a consultant.

An AT&T spokesman told the Journal that Whitacre's pay and pension reflected his position as one of the longest-serving and most successful CEOs in corporate America.

"During his tenure as CEO, AT&T has outperformed its peers in delivering value to stockholders, and Mr. Whitacre has positioned the company to continue to create stockholder value for many years to come," an AT&T spokesman told the Journal.

AT&T recently announced its profit doubled in the latest quarter and beat Wall Street forecasts, helped by the purchase of Bell South. The telecommunications company has $120 billion in revenue and more than 100 million customers.

Last year, Whitacre earned about $31.5 million in pay, and the company defended his compensation package by pointing out that AT&T provided a 53 percent return to shareholders, the paper said.

Whitacre's retirement package ranks as the second-highest payout in the U.S. among those on file with the SEC as of mid-April, the Corporate Library, a research firm that tracks executive salaries and corporate governance, told the Journal.

Jefferies Group (Charts) Chief Executive Richard Handler tops the list with a retirement package valued at nearly $202 million, with nearly all of the sum deferred compensation.

A Jefferies spokesman told the Journal that Handler has been with the company for 17 years and the company's stock has soared more than 400 percent since Handler began leading the company in 2000.

There have been larger payouts than the latest retirement packages most recently filed to the SEC.

According to the Corporate Library, Exxon Mobil's (Charts, Fortune 500) former chairman and CEO Lee Raymond tops Whitacre and Handler's payouts, with Raymond receiving a total retirement package of about $351 million, the paper said. Top of page