Factories are humming, corporate profit is peaking, the stock market is climbing to record highs and top officials of publicly held plastics companies are having a very big year. Buoyed by an economy in its fifth year of expansion, top officials of consumer goods companies led the way in Plastics News' annual ranking of executive compensation. Executives from Premark International Inc., Newell Co., Rubbermaid Inc., Carlisle Plastics Inc. and First Brands Corp. accounted for nine of the top 20 spots on the 1995 ranking.
Warren L. Batts, Premark's chairman and chief executive officer, was far and away the top-earning executive among plastic processors, with compensation of $12 million. That's more than the next six executives on the list earned in total.
Last year, in Plastics News' first executive compensation ranking, Batts also led the pack with $9 million in total compensation.
E.V. Goings, Premark executive vice president and head of the globally expanding Tupperware business, boosted his total compensation by 120.5 percent to $1.68 million.
Fast-growing film extruders Bemis Co. Inc. and Applied Extrusion Technologies Inc. accounted for five of the top 20 spots on the ranking.
The best year-to-year stock performance by a company in the Plastics News ranking was turned in by AET, a Peabody, Mass.-based maker of plastic films, nets and webs. The company's shares increased in value 135.1 percent in calendar 1994. Its stock closed July 12 at $16.
Thomas E. Williams, AET's president, chief operating officer and CEO, boosted his pay package 160 percent, receiving total compensation in 1994 of $742,431. Williams, who joined the company in December 1992, got a new, five-year employment contract in April 1994 that boosted his base salary from $275,000 to $360,000 per year.
Another big winner in 1994 was John B. Yasinsky, president and CEO of GenCorp Inc., who boosted his total compensation by 113.9 percent to $1.18 million. Yasinsky, a former group president of Westinghouse Electric Corp., joined GenCorp in November 1993 and was promoted to chief executive in July 1994. His compensation for last year's ranking thus was reflective of apartial year of work in 1993 at the Fairlawn, Ohio, defense, polymers and automotive firm.
Included in Yasinsky's most recent pay package was a salary of $501,667, a bonus of $650,000 and options on 150,000 shares of GenCorp stock. The bonus for 1994 included a one-time payment of $300,000 to compensate for his loss of a bonus from Westinghouse. For 1993, Yasinsky also received a one-time payment of $500,000 to compensate for loss of payments and benefits from his former employer.
Yasinsky, 56, also was credited with 30 years of company service for the purposes of calcu-lating his GenCorp pension. If he retires with 41 years of service, Yasinsky is due to receive an annual pension benefit of $514,000. Those benefits will be offset by any other pension he may receive from previous employers.
GenCorp stock, however, has drifted for the past two years between $10 and $14, and closed July 12 at $11.25. The company reported a loss of $13 million in 1994. It recently announced that it has given up trying to sell its Aerojet defense business and will try to create ``increased value through enhanced operational performance'' at the unit.
If executives at successful plastics processing companiesare doing well for themselves these days, it is also important to note that the business is a cy-clical one and times have been good lately, said Al Candrilli, regional director of compensation practice at the Cleveland office of KPMG Peat Marwick, an international accounting firm.
Executives who won't be able to manage effectively during the downside of an economic cycle probably will test the patience of directors, who increasingly tie pay packages to company performance. Directors, in turn, are under greater pressure from stockholders to dump nonperforming top managers.
Candrilli, whose practice includes a number of plastics firms, said rewarding an official who does not produce strong numbers is ``nuts.'' But a fat compensation package for a top-performing manager is simply good business.
``The game is all about scoring,'' Candrilli said. ``If everybody's winning, that's fine.''
Still, the ongoing restruc-turings in corporate America, targeted in large part at middle management, are creating a widening gap between compensation levels of top officials and their subordinates, said William T. Wilson, an economist at Comerica Inc., a Detroit banking firm.
Last year, about 700,000 people were laid off because of corporate restructurings, a greater number than occurred during the 1990-91 recession.
``We've never had this intensity of downsizing going on during a recovery,'' Wilson said. ``If you're anywhere in middle management, there's always an ax over your head.''
This constant workplace insecurity is one reason increases in wages and salaries have been kept low in recent years, he said.
Indeed, companies are budgeting an average of only 4 percent for employee salary increases this year and in 1996, reports New York-based Conference Board. The business association said the increases, derived from a survey of more than 800 firms, were the lowest in 20 years.
By comparison, KPMG released a survey this month of compensation for 1994 at 105 firms that showed a median increase in total cash compensation - salary and bonus - for chief executives of 13.2 percent.
But the survey showed that chief executives draw only 31 percent of their total compensation from base salary, while annual bonuses account for 26 percent and long-term incentives, such as stock options, represent 43 percent of compensation.