NYT Execs: Generous With Other People's Money, But They Like Their Own

Times executives are quite generous with other people's money, as judged by Times editorials and reports urging higher taxes on the rich, and unleashing harsh criticism on wealthy chief executives. But when it comes to their own bank accounts...NYT execs Janet Robinson and Arthur Sulzberger Jr. made over $12 million in compensation in 2009, a year when the paper laid off 8% of its staff.

Times executives are quite generous with other people's money, as judged by Times editorials and reports that call for higher taxes on "the rich" and which unleash harsh criticism on wealthy chief executives. But when it comes to their own bank accounts...

Two top Times executives, NYT Co. Chief Executive Janet Robinson and New York Times Publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr., made $12 million in total compensation between them in 2009, a year in which the Times laid off about 100 staffers, about 8% of its workforce, and instituted a 5% pay cut for the rest.

Here are excerpts (hat tip Dan Kennedy) from a letter sent to the Boston Newspaper Guild, the largest union at The Boston Globe:

Dear Arthur and Janet,

We were astonished to learn that the two of you received more than $10 million in stock awards and options in 2009. During the year for which you were so richly rewarded, the 600 members of the Boston Newspaper Guild gave back almost the same amount in pay and benefit reductions - $10 million, to be exact - after you threatened to close our newspaper, lay off hundreds of people, and strip Massachusetts of its largest newspaper.

Previously, New York Times officials told us that we needed to accept pay cuts and unpaid days off along with higher health costs, the elimination of our retirement programs and other benefit reductions in order to save the Boston Globe. But the recent SEC filings make it look like almost all of our sacrifices went to pay the two of you.


The two of you gave us the impression that you understood all that when you visited the Globe last winter. You even personally thanked us for giving up so much for the greater good. Now we learn that, all the while, you were in line for astronomical bonuses over and above your million dollar salaries. Ms. Robinson's compensation rose 32 percent last year; Mr. Sulzberger's overall pay more than doubled. While you've stopped contributing to our modest retirement plans, the value of your own pensions has increased sharply.

Needless to say, we are insulted, but we also feel betrayed that you would reap such profits at a time when so many of your employees have lost so much.

Near the end the letter tightens the screws of liberal guilt, noting the paper's long tradition of crusading for "workers rights":

Our nation's history is filled with corporate executives who profited handily by cutting workers' salaries and eliminating jobs. But few of those figures helmed newspapers that have done eloquent, important work in revealing and condemning such practices. For this reason, we are hopeful - as both shareholders and employee - that you will govern this company with morality and a basic sense of fairness.

Here's some background on the controversy from Editor & Publisher:

During 2009, Robinson's total compensation including base salary and options was $6.2 million. Sulzberger made $5.9 million during the same year.

Robinson's base salary during 2009, 2008 and 2007 was less than Sulzberger's base salary during the same period. In 2009 she made $962,500 while he made a little more than $1 million.

The majority of both executives' compensation was tied to financial targets set by the company. Robinson and Sulzberger's salaries were less than their target but they both exceeded the mark with their annual bonuses: Robinson had an annual bonus target of $1 million and actually made $1.35 million, while Sulzberger had a target of $1.087 million and actually made $1.451 million.