Last year, Timothy Callahan got it coming and going.

In April, he resigned as chief executive of Chicago-based Equity Office Properties Trust, receiving "separation pay" of $1.65 million, roughly equal to a year's salary and bonus, plus accelerated vesting of options and restricted shares.

Then he was hired in August as CEO at another Chicago-based real estate investment trust, Trizec Properties Inc. Under his employment agreement, he received a fully vested grant of 1 million stock options, valued at nearly $4.9 million.

As investors and prominent officials continue to howl about outsized CEO compensation--particularly as stocks continue to sag--companies have begun to adjust those packages, concoct new ways to link pay to performance and, in some cases, put a lid on raises.

But one area that shows few signs of restraint is in "golden parachutes" and "golden handshakes"--payments given to executives who leave before their time--and "golden hellos," used to help lure new top officials.

Callahan's are far from the largest such packages. A handful of area companies last year paid a total of more than $35 million in special welcoming or departing awards.

Nationally, the average "golden hello" is worth about $15 million, not counting salary, performance bonuses or stock options, according to a study by Paul Hodgson of The Corporate Library corporate governance research center.

"There is still this idea that there aren't that many CEOs out there, so if you want the one you want, you have to pay through the nose for him or her," Hodgson said.

A typical "golden hello" includes payment for options and other future compensation surrendered when leaving the old job, even though they were not guaranteed. Plus, Hodgson notes, new executives usually receive equity in their new employer.

"Where they're losing out and need to be made whole, I'm not exactly sure," he said.

Richard Harris, a senior executive compensation consultant in the Chicago office of Mercer Human Resource Consulting, said, "The golden hellos have a lot to do with the situation with the company--how desperate the situation is and what they think of the person they're bringing in."

At Trizec, Callahan's annual cash pay is significantly lower than that of predecessor Christopher Mackenzie, who last August was granted a lump-sum severance of $4.9 million. To help lure Callahan, the company gave him the options package roughly equal to Mackenzie's golden handshake.

"Tim was recruited last summer when our board knew it needed to attract a very competent CEO with a proven track record," said Trizec spokesman Rick Matthews. The board, he said, deemed the package "appropriate," given the situation.

Golden packages stable

There are signs companies are somewhat tempering the annual pay packages for CEOs, but golden hellos and handshakes seem largely immune.

"We're certainly not seeing any kind of depression in the packages," said Jack Dolmat-Connell, a senior vice president at Clark/Bardes Consulting and author of a study of 2003 executive compensation.

Awards given to new or departing CEOs among local companies last year were dwarfed by some of the headline-grabbing packages of recent years, including the more than $42 million given to Jill Barad to leave Mattel Inc. in 2000.

Including UAL Corp., which fell off the list of the 100 largest local companies by market capitalization after filing for bankruptcy, executives at just six firms that hired CEOs last year received special payments valued at more than $37 million, above salary and other routine compensation.

And that figure doesn't include the $21 million William Aldinger was promised in retention stock grants after Household International Inc. was taken over this year by HSBC Holdings PLC, the more than $46 million package former Motorola Inc. President Edward Breen received last year to take over troubled Tyco International Ltd., or the restricted stock and options package valued at more than $40 million awarded to new CDW Computer Centers Inc. CEO John Edwardson in 2001.