CONTRACT PLAYERS

Movie stars have them. Professional athletes have them. Increasingly, supermarket executives want employment contracts, too, executive recruiters told SN., while only a few years ago they were the sort of perk only the highest two or three corporate officers might command.Jose Tamez, managing partner, Austin-Michael, a San Antonio-based executive search firm, explained that the contracts function

Movie stars have them. Professional athletes have them. Increasingly, supermarket executives want employment contracts, too, executive recruiters told SN.

, while only a few years ago they were the sort of perk only the highest two or three corporate officers might command.

Jose Tamez, managing partner, Austin-Michael, a San Antonio-based executive search firm, explained that the contracts function as a sort of two-way safety net for companies and executives.

In these contracts, executives promise that if they leave within one or two years, they will repay all or part of the company-

financed relocation costs, according to Tamez.

In return, he said, the companies promise to pay a year or two of salary should the executives find themselves outplaced as a result of a dramatic corporate change, such as a buyout or bankruptcy.

"These contracts are becoming standard with companies that are in transition," Tamez noted. "They were popular last year. This year they are more popular."

Observed Norm Wills, senior partner, Craig Search, Dallas, "Executives are asking for some sort of financial security package if the company is acquired and they are not retained. They're asking and the companies are also asking, 'You give me a year and I'll give you a year."'

The contracts may be growing more common, but not all recruiters like them. Mary Jane Schermer, Boulder, Colo.-based managing director for Cooke Associates, Chicago, told SN, "I try to counsel my clients to avoid them. The tone of that kind of contract is not very personal. It's bringing in an executive with an attitude attached."