the audit

Gannett’s Multimillionaires Regret to Inform 700 Workers of Their Layoffs

Imagine if these six execs scrapped the "multi" and took low seven figures
June 22, 2011

Gannett says “we need to take further steps to align our costs with the current revenue trends,” so it’s laying off 700 employees in its newspaper division—about 2 percent of the company’s total workforce.

Poynter’s Jim Romenesko is good to note that Bob Dickey, the guy who announced the “extremely difficult and painful decisions,” got paid $3.4 million last year.

And he’s not even the CEO.

That’s Craig Dubow, who raked in $9.4 million.

And $3.4 million Dickey isn’t even No. 2 in the Gannett lottery. Chief Operating Officer Gracia Martore took home a whopping $8.2 million. Plus, the struggling newspaper company (redundant, I know) had at least three other multimillionaires on the payroll: CFO Paul Saleh, who made $2.9 million; USA Today publisher David Hunke, who got $2.5 million; and president of broadcasting Dave Lougee, who got a mere $2.2 million. These folks are kidding, right?

Those are the only million-dollar-plus paydays disclosed in the company’s 2010 proxy. There may be more.

Sign up for CJR's daily email

Look, running Gannett Company Incorporated isn’t easy these days, but it isn’t the roughest thing in the world, and I haven’t heard anything that makes these folks seem like they’ve got any kind of grasp on where to go in the splintered media age. And those salaries are awfully high for a company barely hanging on to its Fortune 500 status and dropping fast.

Hmm, how could we preserve more value for long-suffering Gannett shareholders (not to mention longer-suffering Gannett readers, but really—who cares about them?) both in the near and the long terms?

Here’s a thought experiment: If all six of these Gannett executives worked for a million bucks a year would they work less hard? I doubt it. That’s still a whole lot of money. So why not try it and take the money saved and hire some of those workers back? Heck, we’ll even give the CEO $2 million to salve his ego and pay for whatever it is he needs so badly to make it through the day. That will keep quality from deteriorating further at already gutted Gannett papers and perhaps even retain some of the energy, experience, and ideas that are needed to help find a way out of this morass. Might even give morale a shot in the arm, too. What’s the alternative? Throwing it down the executive-suite sinkhole? No, thanks.

I’m not a Gannett shareholder, thank God. But if shareholders had exercised their say-on-pay (Just kidding. I know that doesn’t work, but bear with me!) and reined in executive pay along the lines I’m talking about, that would net us $22 million. How many jobs could generous Gannett execs save by making their paychecks somewhat less obscene?

Let’s guess that Gannett’s cost-per-employee it’s laying off is about $75,000 each. That’s $53 million. So Dubow & Co. could fund the salaries of 40 percent of the fired by becoming lowlier millionaires.

But that presumes they’re interested in stewardship. If so, time’s running out. This carcass is getting mighty lean.

Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR’s business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at Follow him on Twitter at @ryanchittum.