Economy

Newspaper Giant Gives CEO $32 Million Severance Package After Laying Off 20,000 Workers In Six Years

When Craig Dubow resigned as CEO of the nation’s largest newspaper conglomerate amid health problems last year, he ended a six-year stint that “was, by most accounts, a disaster.” Gannett, the parent company of the USA Today and 80 other American newspapers, had seen its revenue plummet $1.7 billion and its stock price fall 86 percent, from $72 a share to just over $10.

To counter those losses, Gannett shed jobs, and a lot of them. Industry estimates say the company has laid off at least 20,000 workers since 2005, reducing its workforce from 52,000 to roughly 32,000. Despite those losses, Gannett awarded Dubow a severance package worth $32 million, NPR reports:

Dubow’s final compensation package includes $12.8 million in retirement benefits, $6.2 million in disability benefits and a $5.9 million severance payment, according to the filing. Gannett stock options and restricted stock, which Dubow had accrued during his years of employment with the company, were also part of the package. Those stock awards are valued at nearly $7 million.

Separately, Gannett will pay $25,000 to $50,000 annually for a $6.2 million life insurance policy covering Dubow and another $70,000 annually for benefits such as health insurance, home computer and secretarial assistance and financial counseling. He will receive most of these benefits for three years unless he goes to work for a competitor, according to the filing.

The lavish severance package Gannett is giving Dubow stands in stark contrast with how it treated many of the 20,000 employees it let go. After giving severance packages to employees during early rounds of layoffs (a common industry practice), Gannett decided in 2009 that it would no longer offer such packages, instead paying supplemental unemployment benefits that shifted most of the costs to states. At the time, Gannett claimed the decision would help many employees get more than they would from severance. But for those who worked or freelanced at other jobs, that meant they’d get much less — and perhaps nothing at all.

“Craig championed our consumers and their ever-changing needs for news and information,” the chair of Gannett’s board of directors said when his retirement was announced in October. The question, as former reporter Peter Lewis asked at the time, is how exactly Dubow served consumers or his employees. “They laid off journalists. They cut the pay of those who remained, while demanding that they work longer hours. They closed news bureaus. They slashed newsroom budgets,” Lewis wrote on his blog. “As revenue fell, and stock prices tanked, and product quality deteriorated, they rewarded themselves huge pay raises and bonuses.”