Lockheed and its departed leaders don’t look back after buyouts

Lockheed Martin executive Ann Sauer was on vacation when the rumors of an executive buyout program became a reality.

For the 10-year employee, the e-mail from the company’s human resources department was attractive from the start. Sauer had worked in the company’s Washington operations office, handling budget and acquisition policy issues, among others. But after decades in the national security business, she had already started to worry she was getting stale.

Lockheed’s generous plan would give Sauer the financial freedom to take time off from work, but posed no restriction on getting a new job. So she, like about 600 other top executives at the Bethesda-based contracting giant, accepted.

Nearly a year later, local executives who took the deal have taken different paths — some, like Sauer, choosing to take a break, others moving on to other companies or taking jobs in the federal government.

For its part, Lockheed says it is pleased with the results of the $178 million buyout program. Today, the company has 500 fewer executives than it did before launching the program — a result of combining or eliminating some positions and filling others at a non-executive level. In sum, the company anticipates reducing its total executive force by about 350 through the program.

“It’s just so very clear that the economic pressures are not going to go away in the short term,” said Robert J. Stevens, Lockheed’s chief executive, in a recent interview. “We are absolutely certain we were well within the parameters of judgment that said now is the time to get leaner and to take more definitive action.”

Under the early exit plan, executives received a lump-sum payment made up of three elements: 75 percent to 125 percent of the executive’s annual salary, based on years of service; a payment of $2,000 per year of service, up to 30 years, meant to defray future medical costs; and an amount equal to the executive’s 2011 vacation pay.

Additionally, executives remained eligible for bonuses in early 2011 based on their 2010 performance.

With the departure of about 600 executives — almost a quarter of the company’s total — Lockheed expects to save about $350 million in the next five years and another $105 million per year for every year after.

Though the early-exit offer allowed the company to rescind it in cases of “extenuating circumstances or severe program impacts,” Lockheed said the number of waivers it issued were in the single digits.

Some Lockheed alumni who participated in the buyout decamped to other companies. Longtime employee Kenneth S. Leiter, for instance, became chief operating officer at McLean-based contractor GCS, while Eleanor Spector, an 11-year employee who had overseen contracts for the company, headed to Fluor to serve as vice president of its contracting activity.

“I was of an age where it was probably a good idea for me to take it, and it was a good buyout,” Spector said.

Some, like Bill Inglee, headed to Capitol Hill. He now serves as staff director on the House Appropriations Committee, though a spokeswoman for the committee was careful to point out that he didn’t know about the position until after he had left Lockheed. Additionally, he divested himself of company ties, including selling his stock.

And Sauer, who is in her mid-fifties, has weighed retiring but said she expects to eventually reenter the workforce, maybe through a political campaign. In the meantime, she’s volunteering, traveling, gardening and spending time with her elderly parents.

“I have no regrets,” Sauer said. “I don’t know anybody who participated in the plan who has regrets about it.”

 
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