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Sears Chief, Other CEOs Riding High Despite Layoffs

Sandy Huffaker/Bloomberg News(NEW YORK) -- It's good to be the king -- or in this case, the CEO of Sears.  At the same time the troubled retailer is shutting stores and laying off "associates," it is paying $800,000 a year to waft Chief Executive Louis J. D'Ambrosio between Philadelphia, where he lives, and Chicago, where he works, by private jet.

The exact amount of these rides, as reported in Sears Holdings' most recent SEC filing, is $793,224.

While using a private jet for one's regular commute might seem excessive, it's just one perquisite among many that public companies are continuing to pay top dogs during tough economic times.

Sears's SEC filing shows it posted its largest quarterly loss in nine years, $3.1 billion.  In addition to stores already closed, it shut another 62, including 43 Hometown Stores, 10 hardware stores and all of its nine Great Indoors stores.  Sears estimates the layoffs at between 40 and 80 associates per store.

Corporate spokesman Chris Brathwaite responded, saying, "If you add the cost of his [Mr. D'Ambrosio's] commuting and related expenses to his salary and bonus, you will see that his compensation package is not out of line with his peers at other major companies (Fortune 100 CEOs or other retail CEOS).  Also that figure takes into account temporary living expenses (housing) and ground transportation."

According to a ranking by Crain's Chicago Business: The Fortunate 100, D'Ambrosio's commuting bill is not the biggest perk among those enjoyed by 100 local CEOs.

As for total compensation, the Crain's list puts Miles D. White, chairman of Abbott Laboratories, at number one, with $25.5 million.  D'Ambrosio's total compensation is just under $10 million.

Corporate jets are just the top of the perk-berg, according to an analysis of recent corporate filings by, part of Morningstar.

Former CEO of Massey Energy Don Blankenship, who departed the company in 2010, following an explosion in a Massey mine that killed 29, got $39 million in accumulated retirement benefits, plus $14.4 million in severance and perks.  These included five years' use of an office with a secretary, free use of a house and land that formerly were Massey property, and reimbursement of taxes on the free house and land ($257,111).

Martha Stewart, chief content provider for troubled Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, received $1.95 million just for letting her own company film her television show at one of her own properties.

Jet use, though, remains a favorite perk, even at Expedia, which you'd think would have an inside line on affordable airfares.  Expedia CEO Barry Diller racked up $605,786 worth of private jet travel in 2010, plus another $644, 530 over at IAC/InterActiveCorp, which he also runs.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio