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Lions Gate top executives' 2009 bonuses plummet, Rachesky nominated to board

August 17, 2009 |  6:37 pm

Felt Top executives at Lions Gate, including Chief Executive Jon Feltheimer and Vice Chairman Michael Burns, saw their bonuses plunge in the company's fiscal 2009, which ended on March 31. That's not surprising given the lousy year the Santa Monica-based independent studio has had.

Feltheimer's 2009 bonus was $437,500, a huge drop from the $2.15-million bonus he received in 2008,according to a filing today with the Securities & Exchange Commission. Burns got $312,500 compared with $1.6 million in the previous year. Steven Beeks, president of the studio, got a bonus of $175,000, down from $700,000.

The reason for the drop? Although Lions Gate reported record revenue of $1.47 billion for fiscal 2009, its losses before accounting for certain costs rose to $133.6 million, from $54.6 million in fiscal '08.  

It wasn't all bad news on the Lions Gate senior executives' pay stubs, however. While Feltheimer's salary of $1.2 million was the same in fiscal 2009 as 2008, Burns got a raise to $844,792, from $750,000. Beeks' base salary also grew, to $750,000 from $600,000.

Also in its Monday filing, Lions Gate announced its 12 nominees for its board of directors, including the company's largest shareholder, Mark Rachesky. Rachesky, a former chief investment strategist for billionaire investor Carl Icahn, is being nominated in place of board director Mark Amin.

Lions Gate announced last month that it would nominate Rachesky, whose New York-based MHR Fund Management owns 19.8% of the company's common stock. The development was widely seen as a defensive measure against activist shareholder Icahn, who owns 17.8% of its stock and was threatening to wage a proxy war against the company.

Icahn has been highly critical of the company's management, saying that it has spent too much money on overhead and on the acquisition of the TV Guide Network. However, he has not yet nominated his own slate of directors even though the new board is to be put to a shareholder vote at the company's annual meeting on Sept. 15.

In response to Icahn's criticisms, Lions Gate has cut $20 million out of its overhead in the last year and sold 49% of its TV Guide Network stake.

The only other change to Lions Gate's proposed new board is that Phyllis Yaffe is being nominated in place of Laurie May. Yaffe, formerly chief executive of Canadian media giant Alliance Atlantis Communications, would be an independent director. May, who has been a director since 2005, is co-president of Maple Pictures Corp., a Canadian distribution company in which Lions Gate is an investor.

--Claudia Eller

Photo: Lions Gate Entertainment Chief Executive Jon Feltheimer at the Allen and Co. Media and Technology Conference in Sun Valley, Idaho, in 2007. Credit: Matthew Staver, Bloomberg News