At Kingston Technology Corp., cofounders David Sun and John Tu decided - under no legal obligation, mind you - that their employees should share copiously in the $1.5 billion they reaped in September from selling a chunk of their firm.
Their bonus plan is a little more gaudy than the usual free holiday turkey. Payments average $75,000 and could top out at $300,000.
Most times, when workers hear the boss is selling the company and making a killing, they go through weeks of knotted stomachs, waiting for the familiar code words: restructuring, streamlining, right-sizing.
Instead, at Kingston, there was eager anticipation, because Messrs. Tu and Sun promptly promised to share the wealth - and workers had every reason to trust their word.
This was just the latest and most amazing instance of the generosity of these two Taiwanese immigrants. Bonuses have been paid quarterly; random gifts like payment of a mother's funeral expenses were common.
The Kingston owners say their actions are rooted in common sense. ``If you put people first, the bottom line will follow,'' Mr. Tu says.
It's just coincidence that the Kingston founders' bonus kitty is pretty close to the size of Mr. Ovitz's platinum parachute. But it's a coincidence pregnant with meaning.
Actually, Mr. Ovitz's windfall likely sticks in the working stiff's craw less than the eight-digit rewards reaped by pitiless downsizers such as Albert ``Chainsaw'' Dunlap.
Mr. Ovitz downsized nothing at Disney, but he didn't do much else, either. In fact, the legendary mastery of The Deal that supposedly earned him his Disney post was most visible in the severance package he negotiated on his way into the Magic Kingdom. Even in a ``top-this'' industry that pays megastars up to $20 million per movie (including flops), his lucrative failure raised eyebrows.
The Kingston bonuses remind us that there's something called sweat equity - the notion that the people whose labor and creativity create value for a company earn a legitimate stake in it. The Ovitz deal offends partly in its flat mockery of the notion of sweat equity; his send-off was sealed before he had worked a day, while all too many workers who have offered companies decades of their life must hold their breath to see if that pension check will still be there when they retire.
No one argues that largesse on the scale of the Kingston bonuses could ever become the rule; it is by definition a wondrous exception.
But it suggests some lessons that could travel well: Investments in people reap returns in loyalty, trust and motivation. Workers with a clear stake in a company's success - whether through bonus plans or stock-purchase programs - are more likely to make a company succeed.
Finally, money is not the only way for smart businesspeople to keep score; reaching the Forbes 400 need not be their Holy Grail. Mr. Tu and Mr. Sun don't mind giving away some of their profits because they don't measure their success or self-worth purely by the size of their holdings.
As John Tu says: ``Don't you think the happiest thing in life is sharing?''