Home Business Neiman CEO Geoffroy van Raemdonck bags big checks after waiving salary

Neiman CEO Geoffroy van Raemdonck bags big checks after waiving salary

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The boss of Neiman Marcus has been getting paid lavishly to lead the swanky chain out of bankruptcy — and that’s ruffling feathers in the rank-and-file.

On March 30, Geoffroy van Raemdonck — a Belgian-born luxury merchant who was named chief executive two years ago — declared he was waiving “100 percent” of his salary while he furloughed more than 14,000 workers amid lockdowns that had shuttered the Dallas-based luxury retailer’s stores nationwide.

A recent filing in bankruptcy court, however, reveals that van Raemdonck continued to pocket big paychecks in the weeks that followed, even as thousands of workers at dozens of stores were sent to the unemployment line.

On April 10, van Raemdonck got a salary check for $57,692, implying a yearly salary of $1.5 million, court documents show. Later in the month, two smaller salary checks arrived totaling $17,230. And on April 24, van Raemdonck got a payment of $172,135 to offset taxes on more than $2 million in stock options he received the previous year.

Info on van Raemdonck’s pay since April couldn’t immediately be obtained, and a Neiman Marcus spokeswoman declined to comment for this story.

In the year leading up to Neiman’s bankruptcy filing, van Raemdonck received three pay raises that saw his annual salary jump from $1 million to $1.2 million and finally to $1.5 million on March 13. Along with each bi-weekly paycheck, the executive also received a $19,230 bonus check, according to court documents.

The fat pay and perks are irking Neiman employees, who gripe that van Raemdonck has been slow to bring people back to work as lockdowns get lifted nationwide, instead limiting most stores to curbside pickup service.

“I can tell you that after seeing this I feel betrayed as he has personally told us that he has given up his salary, but never told us he received the bonus,” an employee who asked to remain anonymous for fear of reprisal told The Post in an email.

“He told us he appreciates our sacrifices, but it looks like he’s not making any himself. He has continually talked about love of customers and how we’re in this together, but after no salary increases and job cuts it seems very one-sided.”

Five weeks after van Raemdonck’s no-salary pledge on May 7, Neiman Marcus filed for Chapter 11. That day, van Raemdonck told Women’s Wear Daily that if it weren’t for the coronavirus, the company wouldn’t have gone bankrupt.

“The mood is positive,” he told the trade publication. “We have a very healthy business and we were on track to deliver more profit this year than last year and grow our gross margin and our top line.”

But skeptics say it’s also possible that Neiman — which has been struggling for years under more than $4 billion in debt it was saddled with in a private-equity buyout — had been preparing for a possible bankruptcy months earlier.

In February, the board handed van Raemdonck a $4 million bonus. While it looks like optimism on the face, experts say it also could be part of a recent trend by boards to hand out bonuses shortly before filing for bankruptcy to avoid having to tangle with creditors and judges over generous pay plans in court.

“My guess is that when they took the bonus, that bankruptcy was a distinct possibility,” said Kenneth Rosen, a bankruptcy attorney at Lowenstein Sandler. “The pandemic may have expedited it, but in the midst of their distress the entire senior management team grabbed a lot of money,” Rosen said of the filings.

Neiman on June 22 also approved cash payouts for seven other top executives, saying their “workloads expand significantly” during bankruptcy, according to the filing. The second highest payout — of $800,000 on April 17 — was earmarked for the president and chief merchant officer, Svetlana Todorovich.

But it’s van Raemdonck who stands to bag the biggest prize — an additional bonus of $3 million — if Neiman exits Chapter 11 by Sept. 15. The bonus gets halved if Neiman exits by Oct. 7 and a later exit would net him just $750,000, the documents show.

Some industry insiders say that could explain van Raemdonck’s reluctance to fully reopen stores, noting that rival Saks Fifth Avenue has been more aggressive in opening its doors to customers, outfitting its staff in masks and gloves and aggressively sanitizing store fixtures throughout the day.

“Geoffroy is saving his cash so when the bankruptcy judge asks, do you have enough cash, he can say ‘yes’,” one industry executive speculated.

Rosen, of Lowenstein Sandler, noted that such pay incentives can cloud an executive’s judgment.

“It places them in the position of making a decision that is good for them individually but not necessarily good for the business,” Rosen said. “Every time that person has to make a decision they will think of whether it’ll delay the case and what that will mean for them financially.”

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