Monday, March 5, 2012

New York Times' Former Chief Janet Robinson Could Make $25,000 Per Hour In Consulting Payments

Janet Robinson Consulting Pay

An SEC filing says Ms. Robinson will get $4.5 million plus health insurance for a 12-month retirement and consulting agreement, including "two-year non-competition, non-solicitation and non-disparagement covenants, a three-year cooperation covenant and an indefinite confidentiality covenant."

The Times itself reported that Ms. Robinson's pay in 2009 was $4.9 million, so she'll earn almost as much as a retired consultant as as a full-time CEO.

The handy investment calculator on the Times corporate Web site shows that $10,000 invested in NYT stock the day Ms. Robinson took over as CEO, on December 27, 2004, would be worth $1,855.14 today, a decline of 81.45%. 

The price of the stock went from $40.59 when she took over to $7.53 today, and though some dividends were paid out early in her tenure as CEO, the dividend has since been suspended.

It's all almost enough to be grist for one of those angry New York Times editorials or business section columns about executives whose outsized pay bears no relation to performance. 
Arthur Sulzberger

In this case, the board hasn't fired the chairman, Arthur Sulzberger Jr., whose family controls the board and the company through a special class of stock. Ms. Robinson could perhaps argue that she earned her pay by serving as someone outside the family for the family to blame for the poor performance.

Which do you think accounts for more of the $4.5 million, the non-competition covenant or the non-disparagement covenant? Mark your calendar for two years from now when the non-disparagement agreement expires.

"No minimum number of hours and a maximum of 15 per month. If she works the maximum amount of hours, which is doubtful, she will earn roughly $25,000 per hour, which is pretty significant for a company that is struggling financially.

In addition to the pension and consulting contract, Robinson is also owed a bonus for 2011 which has yet to be determined, but her most recent bonus was for $1.85 million.

Even though the Times is on the hook to Robinson for $4.5 million, they may be better off just paying her and not asking for her advice, based on her recent track record at the paper."

Janet L. Robinson
When the New York Times' (NYT) and its president and former chief executive, Janet L. Robinson, announced a few months ago that Robinson would step down at the end of the year - even though no successor had been identified - the news caught many off guard. 

The Times disclosed in an 8-K filed December 15, 2011 that it planned to pay Robinson $4.5 million for a one-year consulting gig; however, several interesting details about that consulting agreement weren't available until the company filed its 10-K late last week.

New York Times Editors Respond To Staffers' Protest 

Executive Editor Jill Abramson

On Thursday, the top editors of the New York Times responded to their staffers' open protest of ongoing contract negotiations. 

 Members of the New York Newspaper Guild lined the hallway outside the Page One meeting room in protest as editors entered a 4 p.m. meeting on Wednesday. 

The showing demonstrated staffers' dismay over their contract negotiations, which have been going on for over a year, and negotiators' calls for freezing their pension plans and ending their independent health insurance. A memo had alerted staffers to the protest, and called on senior editors to relay their concerns to the paper's management. 

Executive editor Jill Abramson, managing editor Dean Baquet and managing editor John Geddes responded to the grievances in a letter on Thursday, asking for patience as negotiators continue to plug away at a contract. 

In it, they stressed that the editors and staffers were "all in this together," and empathized with frustrations over the negotiations. "Yesterday’s gathering by the page one room shortly before the 4 p.m.meeting was another reminder of how deeply unsettling this time has been," they wrote. 

However, they said that there had been bright spots in the management's handling of employee pension plans, and made it clear that the discussion over contract terms would remain between the negotiators.

New York Times Employees Protest Contract Negotiations

New York Times employees are openly protesting the ongoing contract negotiations with the newspaper's management again. 

Poynter reports that members of the Newspaper Guild gathered outside the office's Page One meeting room for ten minutes in a quiet display of dissent on Wednesday afternoon.

On Tuesday, they had received a notice alerting them to the planned protest. The memo alleged that management was trying to "compromise our financial welfare, our access to health care and our security in retirement," and called on senior editors to relay the sentiment.

This latest development comes after hundreds of staffers signed an open letter expressing their "profound dismay" with the company's decisions in December. Guild members had been working without a contract since last March, and the letter expressed outrage over negotiators' calls for "a freeze of our pension plan and an end to our independent health insurance," amongst other things.

The tension appears to be heating up as the New York Times faces continued criticism over former CEO Janet Robinson's extremely generous severance package. Employee unions hammered the paper for paying her $4.5 million. The Times is also struggling to fill the leadership vacuum left by Robinson's departure. 

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