Friday, August 12, 2011

USAT | In GCI's new sports czar, a $2.2 million exit; what Beusse's past says about exec salaries present

Gannett's chief sports media executive, Tom Beusse, generated a fair amount of heat during yesterday's USA Today staff meeting, according to Gannett Bloggers who say they were there.

"Never heard this guy Beusse present before,'' Anonymous@4:32 p.m. wrote, apparently while the meeting was underway. "His plan is big time and USA Today is right in the middle. Verrry aggressive plan. This is unprecedented. How do I get on that team?"

Anonymous@4:41 p.m. was even more enthusiastic: "This guy should be running USAT!!!! The audience is digging it!"

Beusse, who is about 46 years old, has been with GCI since January, when USAT named him to the newly created position of president of USA Today Sports Media Group.

He is to be responsible for "overseeing business and strategy for national sports initiatives across USAT, as well as Gannett’s 82 daily newspaper properties, 23 broadcast television stations, and," the paper said in announcing his hiring.

Indeed, GCI's board of directors just recently gave the green light to what CEO Craig Dubow called the USA Today Sports Network.

'Seasoned media executive'
Beusse's is a big portfolio, but one Publisher Dave Hunke thinks he's got the chops to take on.

"Tom is a seasoned media executive and we are excited about the experience he brings to Gannett," Hunke said in a statement at the time. "His leadership will provide us with the vision to help grow our national sports initiatives."

Beusse has worked for Time Warner, where he ran Golf Magazine and other units, according to Hunke's Jan. 4 statement. And he was president of Rodale, the magazine pubisher.

But it was Beusse's job prior to USAT that brought especially rich rewards -- although you wouldn't know that from the paper's announcement. It simply said: "He most recently was president and CEO of Westwood One Inc., a publicly owned content syndication company focused largely on network and local radio."

To be more precise, Beusse resigned from Westwood on Oct. 20, 2008 -- fully two years and two months before joining USAT, according to regulatory filings. Indeed, he was CEO for barely 10 months, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission documents show. The circumstances of his departure aren't disclosed, although a radio industry trade website suggests they were less-than-amicable. Westwood's plummeting stock price, during the global financial crisis, would surely have been a factor.

Document details severance
Whatever the story, Beusse didn't walk away empty-handed: He got a $2.2 million severance package, based on his $700,000 base salary, plus a minimum $300,000 annual bonus.

As part of his separation agreement, Beusse was "subject to the terms of the non-competition and non-solicitation provisions of his Employment Agreement for a period of two years (i.e., through October 20, 2010),'' Westwood told the SEC in a Nov. 5, 2008, filing. That would at least partly explain what he was doing during the years leading up to his USAT appointment.

How much is USAT paying him? We don't know; the paper isn't obligated to disclose any such details for its executive unless -- like Hunke -- their compensation ranks among Gannett's highest. (Last year, Hunke got $2.5 million, which included $514,904 in salary and a $375,000 bonus.)

We can only guess how much the paper is paying Beusse, deputy publisher Susie Ellwood, and the more than dozen other new executives Hunke has hired or promoted since he announced a major reorganization a year ago.

But it seems unlikely Beusse would settle for a lot less than what he got paid before.


  1. Jim, why do you want to discredit this guy the minute the staff begins to feel hopeful. I read and support the blog but this is not a fair post. You are trying to dig up dirt where there is none.

    Give the guy a chance. God knows, we could use a successful launch like USAT Sports network.

    Buesse brings some skills the average Gannett executive does not have and I'm giving him a chance.

  2. 10:45 wrote: "this is not a fair post." Please elaborate.

  3. The poster is saying you stir up trouble Jim. It became very clear yesterday that this blog is full of disgruntled ex-employees and "transparency" starved current employees. Don't hear a lot of complaining about the meeting yesterday. Must be something to look forward to. So sorry for you folks that want to see Gannett fail. Whoever you work or worked for owes you nothing but a fair exchange while you provide a service. You are responsible for your life's successes and failures and only you. I wish Buesse and all of them grand success. And I don't even work for the company.

  4. If he does not clean house with the HSS staff, he has no credibility. That staff is the anchor holding back what COULD be a profitable site. Instead, they are paying contractors 60 and 100/hr to babysit them through the end of December.

  5. 10:45 -
    Jim stated facts that are accurate. You interpreted his motives for pointing out those facts. It's every reader's issue with media....."Why did you bring that up....what's their angle?"

    Maybe we should go back to the old days where everyone knew which side a paper was on and the slant they played. At least they'd be out in the open.....

    Today's world of feigning "Impartiality" as a journalist is a joke. Case-in-point - Keith "I'd like to make a big donation to your liberal political cause" Olbermann.

  6. I agree with 10:45. You didn't like the fact that your USAT chums had a glimmer of hope yesterday so today you write a story designed to say "another greedy bastard." of course you have no facts, you don't know why he left, you just throw out your poison. See folks if you're happy or at least hopeful Jim's revenue stream goes down. In the end it's always about the money. In the end it was the best meeting yet.

  7. So Beusse paid a price for Westwood One's falling stock price, but in the end walked away intact financially. Good for him and it's none of our business - I'm just glad he's here.

    At most companies, execs get the axe when the share price plummets. At Gannett, they get a bonus.

  8. High school sports net is the worst product going. It has never worked right. That gannett continues to sink money into such a terrible product shows how out of touch gci execs are w/ the community papers and their needs. Why do we always buy the worst products and then wonder why they don't work?

  9. I wish Beusse and his team success. He seems very qualified and appears to be working his ass off to make something happen. I like his enthusiasm and his plan. He and Payne should be given alot of credit for 1) actually doing some real work in transforming us to the new digital age and 2) being motivated enough to give a shit about motivating others.

    Hunke needs to find someone with their energy to motivate the newsroom.

    Too many burned out, beaten down UAST staffers who could use a few guys who know how to inspire and motivate.

    I hope Dubow and Martore actually let these guys do their jobs. Moon left because Corporate got in the way and I assume Hunke has the same frustrations.

  10. I didn't see this post as being negative -- it seems clear from the reaction of people who attended that they think Beusse has big exciting plans. I pull for him to succeed. But it's also relevant to know his background, including his severance. It's important that the people working for him know they're working for a multimillionaire business exec.

  11. 1:52 why is that important? What dies his bank account have to do with his project? Jim must gave bug money. No matter how you slice it you can't live in SF on $16,000 a year. What do their resPective bank accounts gave ti do with this discussion?

  12. 10:45: If you don't like it, don't read it. Cost you nothing. I, for one, found it very informative. Also Facebook coverage ensures much, much wider distribution of this blog. Just you wait and see.

  13. The fact that he's probably getting a shitload of money to develop his project is highly relevant when one considers worker bees who've put their careers into this company are getting laid off, furloughed and paid a pittance.

    Gannett - at least USAT - seems to have a strategy of bringing in outsiders at the top nowadays rather than seeking out ideas and implementers from within.


Jim says: "Proceed with caution; this is a free-for-all comment zone. I try to correct or clarify incorrect information. But I can't catch everything. Please keep your posts focused on Gannett and media-related subjects. Note that I occasionally review comments in advance, to reject inappropriate ones. And I ignore hostile posters, and recommend you do, too."

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