Centro has joined RAMS to become the second major Australian victim of the sub-prime turmoil, but while shareholders won’t be happy with Centro’s performance, a degree of credit should be given to the Centro board for its executive remuneration structure.

Given the recent performance of Centro, its high-profile CEO, Andrew Scott had been paid a relatively low $3 million per year (compared with other high-performing CEOs). Instead of paying large bonuses, the Centro board provided executives with interest free loans, under its “Employee Security and Loan” plan, which involved the company providing a 10-year, interest-free loans to allow executives purchase Centro securities. Scott has amassed a shareholding of more than five million Centro stapled securities. In May, Scott’s stake would have been worth more than $50 million (less around $10 million in loans which need to be repaid).

Scott has seen his $50 million holding evaporate to around $8.5 million. Scott currently owes Centro $10 million, meaning that his $50 million holding is now worth negative $1.5 million.

Other Centro executives who have seen their wealth plummet including chief operating officer, Graham Terry (stake down from $20 million to owing Centro around $3 million), legal counsel John Hutchinson (holding also down from $20 million to owing approximately $2 million) and CFO Romano Nenna ($20 million to a debt of around $3 million).

Unlike many other executives who are paid predominantly by way of short term cash incentives, from a corporate governance perspective, shareholders will be somewhat comforted by the fact that Centro executives have a great deal of “skin in the game”. Given their large holdings, it is highly likely that Centro executives are feeling its recent share price losses to a greater extent than shareholders.