golden parachute


: a generous severance agreement for a corporate executive in the event of a sudden dismissal (as because of a merger)

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The Gilded History of Golden Parachute

In 1981 an employee of a major company undergoing a corporate merger referred cynically to the huge severance packages given ejected executives as "golden parachutes." It isn't clear whether the employee actually coined the term, but it is well documented that both "golden" and "parachute" were already part of corporate parlance by that time. Since the 1960s, the business world had been using "golden handshake" for a compensatory package accompanying a termination or forced retirement. The image of the parachute, evoking a comfortable and painless landing, may have been inspired by the popular book about career change by Richard Bolles, titled What Color Is Your Parachute?

Example Sentences

Recent Examples on the Web As is so often the case among Beltway elites, Sasse will be leaving Washington by means of a golden parachute. Jack Mccordick, The New Republic, 30 Dec. 2022 The expansion of unemployment, initially seen as an exigent backstop, was now portrayed as a golden parachute that encouraged people not to work. E. Tammy Kim, The New Yorker, 31 Oct. 2022 Under the merger agreement, Mr. Agrawal was potentially set to receive a golden parachute worth about $60 million, with Mr. Segal to receive $46 million, while Ms. Gadde would receive about $20 million. Kate Conger, New York Times, 28 Oct. 2022 His eccentricities, including a party-all-the-time, spend-spend-spend ethos, played no small role in his downfall, though a golden parachute of $1.7 billion certainly helped cushion the landing. Shirley Halperin, Variety, 28 July 2022 Neumann had pursued unsustainable expansion plans, keeping the company afloat with capital infusions from hoodwinked investors, and he was ousted as C.E.O., albeit with a golden parachute worth more than a billion dollars. The New Yorker, 28 Mar. 2022 Muilenburg received a golden parachute of $60 million when he was fired in December 2019. Lisa Kennedy, Variety, 26 Jan. 2022 Additionally, Allbirds is not required to hold a stockholder advisory vote on executive compensation or previously unapproved golden parachute payments. David Trainer, Forbes, 5 Oct. 2021 Bresch, the daughter of West Virginia’s Democratic Senator Joe Manchin, reportedly received a $30 million golden parachute. Matt Wall, Fox News, 12 July 2021 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'golden parachute.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

1981, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of golden parachute was in 1981


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Cite this Entry

“Golden parachute.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 31 Mar. 2023.

Legal Definition

golden parachute

gold·​en para·​chute
: an agreement providing for generous compensation to an executive upon dismissal
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