Cheryl Miller has resigned as CEO of AutoNation Inc. following a three-month medical leave, while the auto retail giant has extended Mike Jackson's contract to lead the company through April 12, 2022.
Miller, who had been CEO for less than a year, is the second chief executive to walk away from AutoNation since 2019 with a large payout. Miller stands to receive a severance of more than $5.4 million paid in 48 payments, an undetermined prorated annual bonus payment for 2020 and more than $21,000 to cover health, dental and vision insurance for 18 months as long as she complies with conditions in her separation agreement, according to a regulatory filing late Tuesday.
Additionally, Miller will be treated as “retirement” eligible for 70,098 restricted stock units that she was granted in March 2019 and August 2019, but all other unvested stock awards have been terminated, according to the filing.
"The board is thankful for Cheryl's years of service and leadership, including the strategic partnership she built between AutoNation and Waymo," Jackson, AutoNation's chairman and CEO, said in a statement. "We are grateful for her contributions and wish her all of the best in her future endeavors."
The company said Tuesday that Miller, 48, resigned as of that day and also resigned from the board of directors. She had asked for and been granted a medical leave by the nation's largest new-vehicle retailer in April. Miller had been with AutoNation for more than 10 years, serving five years as CFO before being named CEO.
"AutoNation is America's largest and most recognized automotive retailer and it has been an honor to have helped lead the company for over a decade," Miller said in a statement. "I am grateful for the opportunity to have worked with so many talented and committed associates and leaders who I'm confident will continue to drive the company forward."
In April, AutoNation had named Jackson, then executive chairman, to fill in as CEO and president until Miller returned. Later that month, AutoNation promoted COO Jim Bender to president, transferring a title held by Miller.
AutoNation named Miller CEO in July 2019 after she had served as the company's finance chief. She had been tapped to replace Carl Liebert, an industry outsider who lasted just four months in the job after AutoNation hired him to replace Jackson, 71, when he opted to step down as CEO. Jackson previously was CEO of the company for nearly 20 years.
AutoNation said it plans to name a successor for Jackson in early 2022, and he will retire from the company once it has appointed a new CEO. His new employment agreement states that Jackson could leave sooner if a new chief executive is hired before April 12, 2022.
Jackson, whose contract previously had been set to run through the end of 2021, will earn a $1.3 million annual salary — the same as in 2019 — and his annual bonus is targeted at 200 percent of his base salary, with his 2022 annual bonus prorated for the number of days worked and "will be based on actual performance,” according to the regulatory filing.
He also will be eligible to receive stock awards expected to be worth more than $2.9 million in 2020, $9.1 million in 2021 and more than $2.5 million in 2022.
AutoNation Inc., of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., ranks No. 1 on Automotive News' list of the top 150 dealership groups based in the U.S., retailing 282,602 new vehicles in 2019.