Tuesday, December 07, 2010

New documents reveal $255,000 in exec earmarks; for Martore, a foundation gift that keeps on giving

If nothing else, you gotta admire the strength of Gracia Martore's convictions. After all, even CEO Craig Dubow has ended his dubious practice of using Gannett's charitable arm to fund a North Carolina college scholarship named for his family.

But Martore? Last year, GCI's chief operating officer could have chosen any of hundreds of deserving American colleges in places where the company does business, including Kentucky's Berea College, which educates poor kids from coal mining communities in Appalachia.

In the end, however, Martore once more told the Gannett Foundation to give $15,000 to Wellesley College, the bluestocking school near Boston where she got her bachelor's degree in history and political science in 1973, newly released public documents show.

Meanwhile, the foundation gave a combined total of only $39,000 in college scholarships to children of GCI's 35,000 employees during the year. These are the Madelyn P. Jennings Scholarships, which provide one-time stipends of $3,000.

The documents show Martore and 16 other current and former Gannett Management Committee members earmarked $255,000 in foundation money for their favored charities in 2009. The giving came under a benefit for only those executives, one allowing them to steer up to $15,000 each to virtually any non-profit in any U.S. community. Through its more restrictive Community Grant Program, the foundation also supports non-profit activities, but only in places where GCI does business.

A list of all gifts
The grants are different from the better-known GannettMatch program, where the foundation matches dollar-for-dollar employee donations of $50 to a maximum $10,000 per year to non-profits. Under the executive grant-making program, the executives are not required to give any money of their own. The foundation's assets comprise investments derived from the occasional sale of Gannett newspapers.

Overall, the foundation spent $4.1 million on grants and scholarships in 2009. That was off sharply from $12.1 million in 2008. However, the $255,000 in executives' grants fell just 15%, from $300,000 in 2008.

Martore's $15,000 for Wellesley brings to $90,000 $105,000 the total donations she's directed to the college since 2004 2003 the documents show. The 46 gifts she and the other executives directed last year are laid out in this spreadsheet.

Promoted to chief operating officer in February, Martore has led a multi-year cost-cutting campaign that this year included hundreds of layoffs, plus unpaid furloughs for thousands of other workers. In 2009, in her role as chief financial officer, she got paid $4 million, including a $950,000 cash bonus.

The foundation spending emerged in its 2009 IRS tax report; it was completed just three weeks ago. I obtained a copy from the foundation yesterday, after requesting one under federal open records law.

Who's in charge?
[Updated at 5:42 p.m. ET: The foundation is legally separate from GCI, but it's controlled by company executives. Dubow is its chairman and president. Martore is a vice president. With General Counsel Todd Mayman, they comprise the three-member board of directors. The foundation's executive director is GCI's top publicist, Robin Pence. I believe the foundation has a one-person staff.]

Earlier: As layoffs near, charity that doesn't begin at home

Please post your replies in the comments section, below. To e-mail confidentially, write jimhopkins[at]gmail[dot-com]; see Tipsters Anonymous Policy in the rail, upper right.


  1. Every penny of the $255,000 these executives directed should have gone to bolster college scholarships given to Gannett employees' children.

    It's unconscionable that the foundation spent only $39,000 on the Jennings scholarships, limiting them to one-time grants of $3,000. That's a total of just 13 scholarships.

    Add $255,000, and those 13 Jennings scholarships would have each been worth nearly $23,000.

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  3. This is unreal. A woman with seven-figure earnings cannot give $15K of her own money to her alma mater, and instead abuses the privilege of directing foundation gifts?

    Jim, you are absolutely correct in your assertion that every penny should have gone to employees' children. Is there any way that a shareholder resolution could be introduced to stipulate that type of restriction on foundation giving? Or is the foundation off limits because it's a separate entity?

    Gracia, you are a greedy, disgusting human being. But I guess that we all knew that already.

  4. Gracia Martore gives a new meaning to the word greed. Gosh, even Big Al must admire her thirst for the dollar.

  5. Keep it up Martore and you'll get yourself a nice bronze plaque from the Wellesley swells. Maybe even a statue on the quad!

    Why doesn't the company eliminate this program? If the execs want to make donations, let them use their own money.

    Or at least manadate some kind of focus, like high school and college journalism programs.

  6. I agree with 9:50. The company should eliminate this program or at least suspend it until a year in which there are no employee layoffs. How can the execs continue "business as usual" in this horrible economy and business climate? Oh, that's right. No conscience makes it easy.

  7. Jim, you're missing an important point here in your very revealing report. The gifting perks that the foundation gives current and retired CEO rival, if not exceed, the total allocation that the foundation gives to many of the smaller community newspapers and TV stations. In these days of tight budgets and budget cuts, foundation monies are often all we have left to show support to big community causes, such as United Way -- or things that GMs/Pubs need to show support in order to curry favor with big advertisers. Many of the retirees and most of the current executives on your list have more foundation money to allocate than many of their properties.

    Also, foundation is separate from the company, although managed and controlled by the same set of executives. Money cut from foundation spending can't be used to cover gaps on the business side of the house.

  8. I did the paperwork three different years for the Madelyn Jennings scholarship for my kids. Yes, $3,000 is a drop in the bucket, but every little bit helps.
    I don't know what criteria they were looking for (my kids had an excellent roster of activities, honors, and grades) but none of them received a dime. It would have been nice if there had been more money to go around. Maybe some of the scholarships would have made it into the heartland. I don't know of anyone in my region whose children received one of these scholarships.

  9. waiting for the F (furlough) bomb12/07/2010 11:01 AM

    A great piece of reporting and digging Jim. On behalf of beleaguered Gannett employees, keep it up. My next question, does Gracie and the other big shot get a tax credit for their so-called "giving."?

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  11. Following is an edited version of a comment posted by 11:50:

    I know that the "independent" team that reviewed Dubow's giving last year, and found that it did not contravene the foundation's guidelines, pretty much gave company executives a blank check when it comes to foundation donations. [XXXXX]

    Of course, no one in GCI leadership really cares what the rest of the world thinks, but can't Martore even pretend to exercise some of the self-restraint that her boss is lacking?

    The hubris among this company's senior execs is just mind-boggling.

  12. Please don't post comments about the young children of Gannett executives.

  13. Before you removed it, I saw that comment made by My Boss referring to the child of an executive. Very poor judgement on My Boss' part and glad to see you deleted it Jim. We adults are fair game but let's not exploit the children.

  14. You know, it's easy to get disgusted at the Crystal Palace court for general stupidity, lack of managerial innovation amd the tone deaf treatment of the masses. But I think this is just another insult to employees. Why give a thought for any of your actions at Gannett and the fall out of people who report to you, or at least used to, before they were terminated. Better to think about burnishing your image at your alma mater with a foundation's money. You make me sick.

  15. Why do former executives get to spend $15,000 in foundation money on pet causes? Oh. I know. Because OTHER former Gannett executives are on the foundaton board. No one expects this unethical practice to stop. But going forward, the foundation might considering some more Jennings scholarship money for the college bound of current employees? Show us the love, brothers and sisters!

  16. Could you drama queens PLEASE stop whining about this already? geez.

    -- Gracia

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  19. My Boss is correct...12/07/2010 10:56 PM

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  20. To Anonymous@10:56 p.m.:

    What you and My Boss wrote is true, and I have known this fact for the past two years.

    Still, I've removed your comment, for the same reason I removed My Boss':

    It's unfair to drag young children into the messes their parents create. What's more, the pattern you describe is very common.

    Finally, in your comment you wrote: "This is no different then when Dubow donated to some random NC College where he and his wife enjoyed recognition and naming rights." However, it is different because in that case, the issue involved two adults.

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  23. Hospices and food banks, I have no problem with.

    Private schools, especially well-endowed colleges, I do.

    Then again, what do we know of their individual private donations? Nothing.

    This program should be discontinued and any further "donations" directed to the scholarship fund.

    Ms. Jennings was a lady. A far cry from you, Ms. Martore!

  24. I just found a 2003 tax report for the foundation, showing that Martore directed $15,000 to Wellesley that year. I've now adjusted the total gifts she's sent to $105,000.

  25. Oh, har! The same report shows that the foundation donated $1,000 to Al Neuharth's wife's adoption agency, Home At Last of Cocoa Beach, Fla.

    Plus: $600 to The Family Foundation of Richmond, Va., and Focus on the Family of Colorado Springs, Colo. -- two right-wing politically active groups.

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