Thursday, November 09, 2006

New Defense Chief Gates’ Corporate Connections

While other knowledgeable writers educate us about Robert Gates role in postponing the release of the American Embassy hostages in Iran to favor incoming President Ronald Reagan or arming Iraq under Saddam Hussein in the 1980’s, I can only offer information on the nominees corporate connections and stock holdings.

The current President of Texas A & M University’s bio offers information on his current corporate directorships. Those include The Fidelity Funds, NACCO Industries, Parker Drilling, and Brinker International. Previous directorships held include TRW Inc., LucasVarsity PLC, and Draper Labs. He is a senior advisor and consultant to several major international firms. Interesting findings include:

1. Under the heading of Military Space, Draper Labs is aiding the Defense Department with its development of advanced space control capabilities.

2. Mr. Gates owns $475,000 in stock in just one company. His 3,318 shares at $143 per share of NACCO Industries are on top of his pay of $40,000 a year for his board services. Their household appliance division has outsourced almost all of its production to China.

3. Directors of the Fidelity Funds reportedly received a $25,000 raise on top of their $262,000 annual compensation in 2004. Robert did better than that raking in $362,250 before his promotion to Chairman of the Fidelity Board. Gates told Texas A&M he needed 10 days a month to earn his pay at Fidelity, half of those would be weekend days.

4. Fidelity Management & Research owns 6.6 million shares of Parker Drilling.

5. Parker Drilling paid Dr. Gates $44,000 for his services in 2005 while giving him a restricted stock award of $55,800 which has since vested. Mr. Gates owns 12,000 shares of the company worth roughly $110,000 at the current share price of $9.10.

6. Robert owns 13,117 shares and 36,954 stock options (8,893 are vested) of Brinker International, a restaurant chain known for its Chili’s & Macaroni Grill franchises. Directors receive $50,000 in annual compensation which may be taken in a number of forms. Robert took his in a mix of cash and stock. At $46 a share Dr. Gates current holdings are valued at just over $600,000 (not including options).

The newly nominated Defense Department Director currently pulls down a half million in annual income just from his board directorships. This is on top of his Texas A&M salary of $525,000 a year. His holdings in those same companies are valued at over $1.1 million.

While Dr. Gates isn’t Donald Rumsfeld, he is yet another Bush high dollar business insider. Between the disturbing revelations of his prior roles in Iran/Iraq and what I discovered in a few hours using corporate websites and SEC filings, I’m not sure America is any better off. Do we have yet another Washington insider ready to send business to his friends? Time will tell…

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