Friday, September 27, 2013

Here's the red carpet medical care top execs get

At Gannett, VIP stands for very important perquisites.

As Gannett ratchets up the cost of health insurance for regular workers, it pays for generous extra medical benefits for the most senior executives and their families during and after employment -- and in some cases, even after they die, company documents show.

That's hardly surprising. Across Corporate America, executives get all manner of platinum perquisites once they're promoted to the sunniest corner offices. But they're controversial because many corporate governance experts say seven-figure paychecks ought to be enough.

As at other companies, Gannett's board of directors argues these perqs are more than necessary. In company documents, the board says they "help minimize distractions from important initiatives" and "attract and retain the best management talent."

Here's a rundown of the executives' benefits, according to annual proxy statements to shareholders.

Cash for mortgages
Gannett pays for supplemental medical coverage for at least CEO Gracia Martore, newspaper division President Bob Dickey, and broadcasting President Dave Lougee.

Supplemental generally pays cash for essentials not included in your regular plan, including your mortgage, groceries, childcare, and a private hospital room.

How much does supplemental care cost the company? It's not detailed, but instead is lumped into a category called "other compensation." That also includes costly life insurance premiums and such extra perqs as personal use of the company jet. Last year, other compensation totaled $117,283 for Martore; $125,612 for Dickey, and $131,030 for Lougee. (This table shows total pay last year.)

Supplemental continues after retirement, when it also extends to covering family members. The reports doesn't say how long the benefit lasts, suggesting it's at least as long as the executive is alive.

And if they keel over at their Crystal Palace desk? Family dependents not only continue to get regular medical coverage, but also the supplemental coverage for the rest of their lives. That supplemental insurance costs the company about $10,000 a year.

Top executives swing these benefits thanks to an entire industry of lawyers and other financial consultants who are experts in brass-knuckle negotiating.

Paying to pay even more
And in one of the ultimate perqs, Corporate provides legal and financial advice at company expense. In other words, the company pays attorneys who can help executives wrangle these very benefits.

The report doesn't say how much that expert advice costs the company. But the 2012 proxy report suggests it's worth as much as $25,000 a year, in a section detailing former CEO Craig Dubow's post-retirement bennies.

Earlier: Tell us how much more you'll pay next year for medical coverage.

Related: Here's the company's FAQ about the new employee health insurance plans. And here's a document showing examples of how the plan will work for individuals and families. They are stored on Google Docs, where you can download copies anonymously at no cost.


  1. And this is why I refuse to freelance for my former Gannett workplace. Several sales people have asked me to work on projects for their clients, because the clients know me, trust me and believe I do good work. However, I will NEVER contribute to the success of Gannett because I don't want Gracia and her bunch of cronies to benefit from my hard work!

  2. I think this bears on the company's decision to keep offering spousal and family coverage in the new health plan rather than dropping it so that employees' families would be eligible for the lower-cost exchange coverage.

    For rank-and-file employees, the skyrocketing expense is going to be truly crippling. Many will struggle to pay it in addition to mortgages, college tuition, transportation costs, etc. But for highly paid executives and managers, who can afford it, it still functions as the traditional incentive mentioned in today's lead
    post here.

    Again, the few benefit while the many suffer more.

    Highly paid execs who

    1. Pleas pardon the formatting errors.

  3. WOW! Gannett is really stepping on the employees now. HSAs can be a great thing if there's enough of a base to begin with. Based on what I just read, this isn't happening. This will cost employees much more than they've been paying. There are advantages with an HSA as far as portability, but you'd have to work there for several years to build up enough to make it worthwhile.


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