Tuesday, January 13, 2009

What Gannett pays (columnist) Neuharth yearly

[Click image for bigger view of key language from 1989 proxy]

Al Neuharth and his vintage mug shots have graced prime real estate in USA Today for more than 20 years: The retired chairman and CEO's Plain Talk column appears every Friday in the No. 1 circulation paper, which he launched just seven years before his retirement, in 1989.

That year, Neuharth reached a deal with fellow board members on his retirement package. He agreed to serve as a "consultant and advisor, and as a columnist or commentator, for the remainder of his life,'' says the 1989 proxy report to shareholders; I obtained a copy today under federal open-records law.

"For these services,'' the company discloses in a footnote to the compensation table, "Gannett will pay Mr. Neuharth $200,000 per year for five years and $100,000 per year thereafter."

Now 84 years old, the multimillionaire appears to fulfill his duties with that weekly USA Today column: $100,000 a year -- for life.

But wait -- there's so much more!
I've just begun examining the 1989 proxy, which Gannett filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. I paid a document service $30.87 for copying and delivery. Please consider making a $5 contribution to defray my costs.

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  1. Al should have been as generous with the salaries of the USA Today staff instead. HA!

    The man is the most self-centered egotist the industry has ever since.

    Never read anything he wrote when I was on staff. I sure the hell never read anything he's written since leaving. My time is too valuable to waste on his over paid words.

  2. Gannett had no problem pulling the rug out from under Gannett's retirees by freezing the pension plan. That tells me the company is not immune to breaking promises during tough economic times.

    I challenge the board to consider breaking this promise someone made to Neuharth. Maybe he'd even understand and agree to the belt tightening!

  3. I'm asssuming the standard reason why they can't change AHN's, McCorky's or Miller's or anyone elses retirement plan is because.... it's a retirement contract not a plan. Compared to McCorkindale, Miller and who knows who else AHN is cheap at a $100,000k/yr

  4. $100,000/yr is good pay for a freelancer that writes less than one column a week over the course of the year. Where do I sign up?

  5. Contract. Plan. Promise, whatever.
    If his $100,000 pay no longer brings the company at least that much value, change it I say. Use the economy as an excuse. No, tell him this is an "innovation" and a part of the overall "transformation."

  6. 10:01am,
    You have missed some toe-curling gems. Al's column February 8, 2008 entitled Send Valentine's love or (Dump Your Jerk)? PRICELESS

  7. Unfortunately, because it's a contract, if Gannett were to alter it, Big Al could sue the company for breach.

    Just like any vendor that provides a service to the company under a contract and that company doesn't pay.

    It appears the only out for Gannett is true insolvency (which may eventually come).


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