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Golden handshakes for newspaper execs.

Cashing out of a long-term compensation fund gave Lee Enterprises Inc. chairman Lloyd G. Schermer the biggest paycheck in the newspaper business last year: about $5.7 million.

According to Lee's proxy statement, Schermer, who at 65 retired last May as president and CEO, earned $386,525 in salary plus $4.8 million in long-term compensation, bringing his total 1991 cash compensation to $5.1 million.

In addition, Lee contributed $105,405 toward his pension, and Schermer accepted $505,843 as a lump sum payment for a retirement plan that would have paid him 50% of his salary--which was $679,206 in 1990--for 10 years. He got no stock options in 1991.

It adds up to about $5.7 million last year, excluding stock dividends.

Did he earn it?

"Damn right I have," Schermer said, adding that he was not the highest-paid newspaper executive last year because the deferred compensation payout had accumulated over 30 years.

He defends his record, saying 100 shares of Lee stock bought in 1969 for $2,050 would would have split into 1,350 shares worth about $40,000 today, a 1,851% increase.

He adds that the executive compensation committee is made up of directors from outside Lee.

Schermer and his wife Betty own 4.3%, or 670,000 shares, of Lee common stock and 11.3%, or 904,000 shares, of Class B common shares, and he retains options on 154,000 shares.

Schermer collected $3.2 million in 1990 in an earlier disbursement from the deferred long-term compensation plan, which started when he joined the company as a newspaper advertising director in 1962 and was phased out in 1990. The compensation committee determined how much each executive was paid in deferred compensation.

Lee, based in Davenport, Iowa, owns 19 newspapers in the Midwest and West. In its fiscal year 1991, ended last Sept. 30, it reported revenues rose 20.4% to $346 million and net income fell 28.9% to $31.5 million, compared with the year before.

By comparison, an analysis by News Inc. showed Gannett Co. Inc. chairman John Curley led the newspaper industry with $3 million in earnings from Gannett in 1990, including salary, bonus, stock options, and dividends.

Though piddling by comparison, one of the best-paid newsroom executives last year--one of the few whose salary is public record--was Ben Bradlee, 70, who retired as Washington Post executive editor in August after 23 years with the paper.

The Washington Post Co. in its proxy statement said Bradlee was paid $181,933 in salary last year and $71,021 in prorated bonus. He got $309,085 from phantom stock awarded in 1965, more than $20,000 in retirement and savings payments, $106,000 worth of stock, and $535,000, equivalent to two years' severance pay, as an advance for two years of "consulting." It adds up to around $1.2 million.

"I'm not going to talk about my pay," Bradlee said.

He was elected to the board of directors last September, a job paying $30,000 a year, and he owns 51,480 shares of stock.

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Title Annotation:retirements
Author:Garneau, George
Publication:Editor & Publisher
Date:May 2, 1992
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