Duke Energy CEO Bill Johnson Makes $44 Million for 1 Day of Work

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For most Americans, getting fired from a job is a nightmare scenario. Not so if you're a CEO toiling away at one of the country's wealthiest companies.

After just five hours on the job, Duke Energy CEO Bill Johnson was surprisingly removed from his chief executive post and given a stunning $44.4 million severance package. The bizarre turn of events illustrates the massive salary chasm between CEOs and worker bees in the economically sluggish United States.

The lightning quick departure -- and monsterous payout -- is unprecedented in American corporate history and has left analysts wondering how it happened.

According to the Wall Street Journal, here's what we know: Johnson (pictured) held a similar CEO position with Progress Energy about 18 months ago. At that time, Duke Energy and Progress Energy began a merger. Duke Energy, based in Charlotte, North Carolina, is the largest electric power holding company in the United States.

That merger was recently completed, and Johnson signed a deal on June 27 to become the energy company's new CEO. Meanwhile, Jim Rogers was tabbed to become the organization's chairman.

After only a few hours, however, Energy's board apparently had a change of heart. Johnson was out as CEO and Rogers was in. For the half day he served as CEO, Johnson was provided a compensation package estimated at more than $44 million, Forbes reports.

The NY Times says Johnson was shocked by the board's vote but gave his resignation: "Mr. Johnson complied with the board’s request, which was made directly to him by Duke’s lead director, Ann Maynard Gray. He was shocked by the board’s action, according to a friend, and submitted his resignation on July 3, just hours before Duke announced that Mr. Rogers would take over."

So Johnson walked into the job, probably had long enough to find the coffee machine, and was gone by lunch. For his troubles, he'll receive $7.4 million severance, a $1.4 million bonus, a hefty stock deal, and a $1.5 million lump-sum payout -- for a grand total of $44.4 million.