The headquarters of Duke Energy, where Bill Johnson worked for a bit. (Photo by K. Koukopoulus.)

When Duke Energy announced its merger with Progress Energy last year, the two companies agreed that Progress CEO Bill Johnson would assume the same position at the combined company. So he did: On June 27, Johnson signed a three-year contract to helm Duke. When the merger went into effect on July 2, he assumed the position of CEO.

And then, on July 3 at midnight, Johnson resigned. The Wall Street Journal:

Outsiders considered the turn of events highly unusual. New chief executives almost never quit days after accepting an employment contract, three executive-compensation consultants said.

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It “is very odd” for a CEO to exit days after taking command, said David Schmidt, a consultant at James F. Reda & Associates, a compensation consulting firm in New York that wasn’t involved with either company. “I have never seen that before.”

But let us not weep for our once and not-future king. Bill Johnson’s golden parachute was not affected by his short flight.

Despite his short-lived tenure, Mr. Johnson will receive exit payments worth as much as $44.4 million, according to Duke. That includes $7.4 million in severance, a nearly $1.4 million cash bonus, a special lump-sum payment worth up to $1.5 million and accelerated vesting of his stock awards, according to a Duke regulatory filing Tuesday night. Mr. Johnson gets the lump-sum payment as long as he cooperates with Duke and doesn’t disparage his former employer, the filing said.

Under his exit package, Mr. Johnson also will receive approximately $30,000 to reimburse him for relocation expenses.

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So assuming that he worked for a full eight hours on Monday, that comes out to a nice $5.5 million an hour — some 765,000 times the national minimum wage. His relocation alone is over half the average annual salary for an American worker. Hopefully he didn’t move too near any of his former colleagues. How embarrassing to run into them at the country club, what with Johnson being unemployed and all!

Johnson’s replacement is former Duke CEO Jim Rogers, just starting his fourth day on the job. He’s probably walking around the office, bragging about his longevity.

Farewell, Bill Johnson. You had a great run.

Update: As many have noted, the “resignation” seems an awful lot like a “firing.” It is obviously the latter; technically the former. The corporate world never ceases to amaze.

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