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Archive for Friday, December 7, 2001

Utility to cut jobs, executive pay

December 7, 2001

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— Western Resources plans to eliminate more jobs and cut the pay of two top executives as it continues efforts to improve financial operations.

The company said in a statement Thursday that the base salaries of David Wittig, its chairman, president and CEO, and Doug Lake, an executive vice president and chief strategic officer, would be reduced by 20 percent next year.

Members of the board of directors including Frank Becker, president of Becker Investments Inc. in Lawrence, and former Kansas University Chancellor Gene Budig also will have their $25,000 annual retainers cut by 20 percent.

Wittig received $4.3 million in total compensation in 2000, according to a proxy statement filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission. His base salary was $303,400 and he got a bonus of $1.17 million. He also received $2.15 million in restricted stock awards and another $680,263 in benefits.

Wittig's base salary for 2002 would have been $740,000, and the cut will reduce it to $590,000, the company said.

Lake, Western's second-ranking executive, received a base salary of $224,476 and total compensation of $2.9 million in 2000, the proxy statement said.

The reductions are part of an effort by the state's largest utility to cut costs and reorganize its electric power divisions in the wake of decisions by state regulators to cut its electric rates and to reject a proposed corporate reorganization in preparation for sale of its utility operations to the Public Service Company of New Mexico.

In addition to reducing the base pay of senior executives and board members, Western is reducing its work force. The company said it intends to cut its statewide work force by the end of the year by 214 people, to 2,266.

The company said it would take a $25 million charge in the fourth quarter for expenses related to the work force reduction. The company said it could take another charge for cuts in the first quarter of 2002 if it introduces a voluntary separation program for union and nonunion employees.

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