Investor Pushes Back on Fisher Executive Pay Plan

A key investor in Seattle-based broadcaster Fisher Communications is opposing a stock-based incentive plan due for a vote at a shareholder meeting April 30.

GAMCO Investors Inc., which along with affiliate firm Gabelli Funds LLC owns about 17 percent of Fisher stock, said in a press release and SEC filing that it intends to withhold its vote for the slate of Fisher directors and oppose the compensation plan approved by the directors.

Fisher said its stock-based incentive plan more closely aligns employee and company interests, and “believes its emphasis on stock-based compensation has played a large role in its strong financial performance of the past two years.” In 2007, Fisher delivered its second consecutive year of achieving net income from continuing operations following five consecutive years of net losses from continuing operations, the company said.

The company’s existing equity compensation plan expires April 26.

“Lack of equity awards could make it difficult to retain employees, attract employees from companies that have equity compensation programs or compete for talent against competitors that have equity compensation programs,” Fisher said in a statement. “The company may be compelled to increase the cash component of employee compensation, which is not in line with its compensation philosophy of pay-for-performance and aligning the employees’ interests with those of shareholders. No other form of compensation replicates the shareholder alignment benefit of company equity.”

Fisher’s stock price, above $50 a share last summer, has plunged to around $30 in 2008.

The company owns and operates 13 full-power television stations (including a half-owned television station), eight low power television stations and eight radio stations in the western United States.