Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Constellation Brands CFO in High Spirits Despite Deflated Real Estate Market

Home price declines are hitting those in the executive suite, too. Robert Ryder left IMG, a major sports marketing company in Cleveland, Ohio, to become CFO of Constellation Brands (STZ-$21.14) in May 2007. He sustained a loss of $324,269 on the sale of his home in Ohio when he relocated to the beer, wine, and spirits distributor's headquarters in Fairfield, New York.

Constellation Brands, however, reimbursed Ryder an aggregate $458,900 (including the aforementioned loss) for relocation expenses incurred in his move, according to the annual proxy filing.

Mr. Ryder also received a $349,700 tax gross-up related to his relocation. The Company did not delineate the specifics of this reimbursement.

"Hmmm." Ryder's
original employment offer covered 'reasonable' closing and relocation expenses, including the relocation of all his and his family members' personal effects, but excluded his new home purchase in New York.

Do the math: is $134,631 a warranted amount to spend on movers? Throw in the alleged tax recompense and you have enough to buy a house!

Constellation Brands, home to a portfolio of imported beers (Negra Modelo, Tsingtao, and Corona Extra), premium wines (Franciscan Oakville Estate and Ravenswood), and spirits (Black Velvet scotch and SVEDKA Vodka), provides a drinking perquisite to its executives and directors, too, known as the 'complimentary product allowance.' According to management, "product allowances enhance product knowledge and appreciation."

The amounts of these benefits provided to Chairman Richard Sands, his brother Chief Executive Officer Robert Sands, and CFO Robert Ryder in 2007 were $4,828, $5,303, and $4,771, respectively.

Consumers adopting the fashionable "cocktail culture" respond very favorably to the exciting flavors, concepts, packaging, positioning, convenience and flair of new and recently introduced premium spirits, says the Constellation Brands website. The 10Q Detective can think of some insiders who have embraced the spirit of this drinking strategy, too. [Constellation Brands reminds you to please drink responsibly.]

Indicators of real estate distress suggest the market has not hit a cycle trough: foreclosure activity is at record levels, non-owner occupied buying activity is increasing, and the credit markets are still a mess. Absent his firing for cause, Robert Ryder remains one of the lucky ones immune to bank buybacks or reset adjustable rate mortgages.

Editor David J. Phillips does not hold a financial interest in any stocks mentioned in this article. The 10Q Detective has a Full Disclosure Policy.

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