Friday, April 04, 2008

Questions about Neuharth for Freedom Forum

The non-profit Freedom Forum's most recent tax return shows that it paid Founder Al Neuharth $225,000 in 2006, plus gave him a $200,545 expense account -- the biggest such account of any officer, director or trustee. Neuharth, 84, who recently groused about his diminished mental capacity, worked 40 hours a week for Freedom Forum, the return shows.

But the document and the group's website reveal little about what Neuharth (left) did for that $425,545. His Freedom Forum bio says he's "founder and senior advisory chairman," and notes that he lives in Florida: "Neuharth resides in Cocoa Beach in a renovated log cabin called Pumpkin Center. He does his writing there in a beachside treehouse that overlooks the Kennedy Space Center launch pads."

Freedom Forum is a charitable foundation run by former top Gannett executives. It's about to open its newest high-profile project: the $450 million Newseum, in Washington, D.C. The museum devoted to news follows the group's early history of lavish spending, as Columbia Journalism Review reported six years ago: "By 1991, critical articles were appearing about lush living at Freedom Forum, and that year the attorney general in New York state, where the group was then registered, started an investigation,'' CJR said. "By the time it was over, in 1994, the foundation had been compelled to promise to halt the excessive or imprudent expenditures that might violate its nonprofit status."

Freedom Forum's lofty slogan is: "Free press, free speech and free spirit.'' So, I gave marketing vice president Susan Bennett a jingle late yesterday afternoon, and asked her about Neuharth's work and very generous compensation. Among my questions:
  • What are Neuharth's specific job duties?
  • What was the purpose of his expense account?
  • Did he work 40 hours a week year round?
  • Who determines his compensation?
  • Is there a committee of the board of trustees who sets his compensation?
  • How much was Neuharth paid last year?

Bennett took down my questions, and said she expected someone would provide answers today.

Your thoughts, in the comments section, below. Use this link to e-mail feedback, tips, snarky letters, etc. See Tipsters Anonymous Policy in the green sidebar, upper right.


  1. Al was a pig as CEO...and age has not changed him.

  2. I'm glad this blog invites SNARKY, because I have a snarky comment about Big Al's diminished capacity.

    In his column he wrote:
    As we prepare to celebrate my 84th birthday this Saturday, that study made me reflect on how my own mental capacities have varied through the years. ... Since my "retirement" at 65, my smarts have slowed down a bit with each passing year. I still can write a weekly column. But I no longer could run a daily newspaper with the constant vigor that is necessary for success."

    I consider this the payback to trophy wives. They waltz in after a guy makes it. They hatch a couple of kiddies (Neuharth, at 84, has toddlers) and they think that distinguished older fellow is going to hold it together at the age/capacity they had on the wedding day.

    In reality, Mrs. Neuharth is likely to be caring for children and a husband gone childlike ... as his capabilities continue to "slow down a bit with each passing year."

  3. While you're digging on what Al gets now, be sure to go back to the shareholder / annual meeting reports/brochures they sent to all stockholders in the '80s when Al was still around. There you will find details of the platinum-plated retirement deals that Al and the rest are getting ... we're talking high, high six-figures just for the pension, let alone the other stuff that Al gets for having founded The Nation's Nicepaper. I wish I still had mine around (sadly, I still own too many shares of GCI accumulated through employee savings/stock purchase/etc. through the go-go years); I'd list the particulars for you. But I was just as appalled back in the '80s as I am today by the beyond-rich compensation Big Al ALREADY gets before you bring this scandalous "Feed'em Forum" compensation into the picture.
    Shame on all of them.

  4. I called, the NY A.G. office several months, ago asking about their criminal case of Al,s adventurous running of the Forum, expensives . I ask then why, their former, A.G.(it a shame you never read anything anymore about Eliot Spitzer,probably to busying tidying up his wife, since he does not have a lady of the night anymore), was to mild in his going after the Forum and Al. Some reason the lady at the other end, who would not give me her name, did not know> I ask if I could make arrangement, to come and see, the case files.It seem, that after being switch threw several different AG peoples, nowbody, knew were the files were?

  5. The Freedom Forum oozes arrogance, excess and irrelevancy. Now I know why.


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