Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Lewis on Gannett pledge: 'These people are lying'

[Detail of proxy report's Page 46 breaks down disability payouts] 

Peter Lewis, a former 
New York Times writer and Stanford University professor, uses those four words to describe Gannett's recent pledges to serve the consumer. Now a consultant, Lewis was reacting on his blog yesterday to spreading news that former CEO Craig Dubow is collecting $37.1 million as he leaves the company. Here's Lewis:

These people are lying. The corporate goal is not to serve the consumer; it’s to maximize profits and pay packages for top executives. Can anyone argue that Gannett newspapers and journalism are better today, and that news consumers are better served?

How did Mr. Dubow and Gannett serve the consumer? They laid off journalists. They cut the pay of those who remained, while demanding that they work longer hours. They closed news bureaus. They slashed newsroom budgets. As revenue fell, and stock prices tanked, and product quality deteriorated, they rewarded themselves huge pay raises and bonuses.

This is the sort of stuff that causes people to occupy Wall Street and main streets in cities across the country.

Earlier: Also criticizing Dubow's eight-figure payout: Daily Kos, and The Atlantic.


  1. He's right.

  2. He's right, but when he asks, "Can anyone argue that Gannett newspapers and journalism are better today," the answer is, "Yes."

    A lot of the Gannett suits run around doing just that. The funny thing is even some folks on the editorial side are willing and able to do it with a straight face. I was at a meeting with community leaders in Reno, NV (I'm not in the newspaper business) where the editor talked about how good things were going for the paper. He argued that people shouldn't buy into all the bad news about the industry. He seemed so sincere that I'm not even sure he realized that his audience was clued into the bogus nature of what he said.

  3. Yes, these people are liars. About time someone in the public called them on it. (Someone other than the disgruntled folk who frequent this forum, because, of course, we just have an ax to grind.)

    To the barricades!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  4. No way to justify $37M. But can I point out a couple of things?

    It won't be $37M. A large percentage of the stock options will be worthless, for instance. Still a crapload. But I wish we were more realistic with the numbers.

    This guy Lewis (really, your only claim to fame is you got NOMINATED for a Pulitzer? who hasn't?) waxes on about what a god Steve Jobs is. And goes all gaga on the $7 BILLION DOLLAR man's $1 compensation. Um, uh, have you looked at what he paid the OTHER top execs? Like, the new CEO, if he stays through 2014, will get paid over ONE HUNDRED SIXTEEN MILLION DOLLARS. His pay for last year: $59 million. For LAST YEAR. Anyone read anything about the working conditions of those Chinese factories where the ipod and ipads and iphones are made? Anyone wonder why Apple couldn't be employing a few more folks here at home? Um, how many people would that employ? No. 5 on the Apple top dogs pay list got $29 million LAST YEAR.

    Yeah, I know, Apple's doing great, godlike, techno genius, makes you all cream your pants. So you're going to hammer Gannett for paying Dubow, say, $30 million for say, about 10 years (thru age 65), and the WONDERFUL Apple folks who are oppressing the Chinese workers are making that much in a YEAR? And you are all impressed with Jobs, because he worked for a buck while sitting on his many BILLIONS?

    Look, none of this saves a single Gannett job, or makes a single paper better, or justifies Dubow's $30+ million.

    But I am SOOOO tired of all the commentary based on one little only partially correct factoid. While ignoring PILES of other pertinent facts. Many of you are journalists. Do a little reporting, for Christ's sake. Stop the all the whining and commentary, and do just a little bit of reporting.

    Aside: Jim pulled a line out of the proxy. Business journalism 101, and amazing no one else bothered. But GREAT reporting?

  5. Pretty sure if Gannett's stock price was near $400, nobody would give a shit that Dubow was getting $37 million. When it's at $10, different story.

    But other than that, great take, bro.

  6. 11:20 Here's another line from the proxy that you missed: Only $6 million of the $37.1 million is stock options. That's only 16% of the total. So even if all the options are worthless, he still walks away with a boatload.

  7. 11:20 I know Steve Jobs. Steve Jobs was a friend of mine. Mr Debow is no Steve Jobs. All jokes aside, my response to you is, "Really? You are comparing Gannett with Apple?" in what world are these to companies or CEOs for that matter, compatible?

  8. They are both companies in the digital space. And both had CEOs who were battling illness during their tenure. Other than that, they have nothing in common. I have not made the comparison.

    I can't think of many -- if any -- companies that would survive a comparison against Apple. After all, it's neck-and-neck with Exxon as the world's most valuable company.

  9. The point is jobs created value for.shareholders. Lots of it. Dubow and cronies created wealth only for themselves. Outrageous.

  10. Jim, you missed 11:20's point, probably intentionally.

    The stock options are $6 million. I doubt those will drop to zero, but it's not chicken feed, either.

    The rest of his post was dead-on. The people who misuse the compare-and-contrast strategy will go wild with their pointless Apple to Gannett comparisons, but the meat of the point is there in 11:20's post. Address that and the numbers, and knock off the "it's apples to oranges" crap.

  11. 11:20 back again.

    Jim: What makes you think I missed a line in the proxy? (I didn't.) Reread what I said. I gave an example, which was that a large percentage of the stock options appear to be worthless. I admitted that he would still get a crapload (which I'm guess is close to your boatload). Specifically, I can only see that 375,000 shares @ $3.75 are worth anything (there's some original reporting by me...will I get credit?). I don't know the SEC reporting rules well enough (do you?) to say why they had to report $6M, but it appears he won't get nearly that much. On the pension: will this be paid out over many years (my assumption) or in lump sum? That could alter the $12.9M in that line, perhaps significantly depending on his lifespan. The RSUs don't seem up for debate, unless he doesn't claim them. The disability payment is not certain, as it is monthly, and has strings attached. I also wonder whether there is an outside policy in play here, which could mean that while he might get that much over time, GCI would not be on the hook for it (despite you saying GCI is self insured, I and they pay an outside insurance company for medical for instance; I wonder whether the same is true for disability). The additional disability benefit also seems straight forward. So, I'm rounding up and saying, perhaps $30M, but it is truly a guess. Do you feel better about saying $37M and knowing you're wrong?

    11:55: Jim posted this link, by this guy Lewis. I did not. Did you READ the link? Jim @ 12:06: ditto. A large portion of his piece dealt with comparing Apple/Jobs to Gannett/Dubow. Oh, and by the way, you flat out state in the "story" here that Dubow is "collecting" $37.1 million. Are you sure?

    12:49: Thank you for paying attention.

    Finally, Jim, et al: I am simply trying to make sense of a messy situation. Nowhere did I say GCI was right in paying Dubow. But I was NOT the one who made the Jobs comparison. By default, YOU did. I am just pointing out the environment in which the board has determined the $$ paid to top execs. And when someone praises Jobs for his buck salary and hammers GCI for laying off American workers, I simply ask that, again, you do a LITTLE bit of reporting before you buy into the talking points.

  12. 1:43 I apologize for my phrasing; I didn't mean it to be a put-down. And as I noted above, I think comparisons between Gannett and Apple don't make sense.

  13. To paraphrase Babe Ruth on why he should have been paid better than the President, Herbert Hoover...Apple had a better decade than Gannett did.

  14. Saw this and thought it appropriate ~ hope this link comes through


  15. Apple stock is great! Period. That's why the execs are paid so much. I own the stock. Bought it VERY low and loving it. If Gannett stock tripled or quadrupled, you wouldn't even care about Dubow's payout.

  16. 1:37 -- I would still care. The stock price doesn't matter nearly as much as the fact that he put thousands of Americans out of work and then left with a boatload of money. Any time anybody calls for a more equal distribution of wealth in this country, they are labeled as un-American. But really, it's the big business leaders who are un-American. They are so ruled by money that they will fire Americans, ship jobs overseas and close plants in the U.S. so that they can pocket more money. If that's what it means to be a real American, I don't want any part of it anymore.


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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