Get Rich Quick!

Europe's executives are finally following the lead of their U.S. counterparts and making a bundle on stock-option bonuses

To Juan Villalonga, the arrangement must have seemed fair enough. Shortly after taking over as head of the Spanish telecommunications firm Telefonica in February 1997, he awarded the company's 100 top executives--including himself--a bushel of potentially lucrative stock options that could be cashed out after three years. With Villalonga at the helm, Telefonica became not only the country's biggest company but also one of its most profitable: it reported a 38% rise in net income for 1999. Protests against the stock scheme by labor unions and leftist politicians did little to rouse the public, in part because for most of the...

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