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Massey's Blankenship to get $12 million on retirement

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • The controversial coal CEO stepped aside Friday, Massey said
  • Blankenship became a lighting rod after the April disaster in West Virginia
  • The explosion at a Massey mine killed 29 workers

(CNN) -- Massey Energy chairman and CEO Don Blankenship will get $12 million in cash payments when he retires from the controversial coal giant at the end of the year, the company disclosed Tuesday.

Massey announced late Friday that Blankenship had handed over the CEO's chair to company President Baxter Phillips Jr. and would retire on December 31. An outspoken opponent of federal mining regulations, Blankenship became a lightning rod for critics of the company after the industry's worst disaster in decades at a Massey-owned mine in April.

Blankenship will receive $2 million the day he retires and another $10 million on July 1, according to documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission on Tuesday. In addition, he'll be paid a $5,000-a-month retainer, plus expenses, as a consultant for two years, the documents show.

Retired Adm. Bobby Inman will succeed Blankenship as the company's non-executive chairman, it said.

Blankenship came under heavy fire after the April 5 explosion at its Upper Big Branch mine outside Charleston, West Virginia, that killed 29 men. It was the worst mine disaster in 40 years, focusing scrutiny on the Richmond, Virginia-based company's safety record.

Massey's stock plunged sharply following the Upper Big Branch explosion but has rebounded in recent months. The company signaled in November that it was putting itself up for sale.

After the April explosion, the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration found "a significant history of safety issues" at the Upper Big Branch mine. Inspectors issued 515 citations and orders at the facility in 2009, with 39 percent of them for "significant and substantial" violations. In addition, the company had three other fatalities at its mines in the 12 preceding years.

Blankenship has pointed a finger back at MSHA, accusing regulators of requiring the company to install a ventilation system that moved less air out of the Upper Big Branch tunnels.