New York Times salaries hold steady in downturn

NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York Times Co executives will get the same salaries they have been paid since 2006, even as U.S. newspaper advertising revenue declines worsen and the publisher tries to pay off millions in debt.

The headquarters of the New York Times is pictured on 8th Avenue in New York April 30, 2008. REUTERS/Gary Hershorn

Chairman Arthur Sulzberger Jr, whose family controls the Times through a special class of shares, will earn about $1.09 million this year, according to a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on Wednesday. Chief Executive Janet Robinson will earn $1 million.

Executives at the Times, which owns the namesake newspaper, as well as other U.S. papers including The Boston Globe, have been making the same base salary since 2006, while ad revenue has declined and the company comes under more pressure to find a way to reverse its flagging fortunes.

More companies this year are freezing or cutting executive pay because they consider it fiscally prudent. It also shows employees and investors that executives are suffering along with them. Some financial institutions such as Merrill Lynch -- now part of Bank of America Corp -- have been burned for awarding lavish compensation to executives, even as share values plunged and thousands of workers lost their jobs.

The difficulties that the Times is having with ad revenue is similar to that of other U.S. newspaper publishers, where executives have taken measures to share in the pain, including one-week furloughs and reduced or suspended bonuses.

The Times said its 2008 earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) was $349.6 million, short of its $399.4 million target.

The Times has made deals in recent months to pay hundreds of millions of dollars in debt. This week, it agreed to sell its interest in its headquarters for $225 million to W.P. Carey & Co and pay rent starting at $24 million in a sale and leaseback agreement. It amounts to paying 11 percent interest.

Earlier this year, it borrowed $250 million from Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim, paying him 14 percent interest and giving him a 16.3 percent stake in the company.

Sulzberger’s total compensation, including stock and option awards, as well as deferred compensation, fell to $2.4 million in 2008 from $3.4 million in 2007. CEO Robinson’s total compensation rose to $5.8 million from $4.1 million.

Sulzberger also received a one-time discretionary bonus of $38,045, which the Times said recognized “the impact of a multi-year salary freeze.” Robinson received $35,000, according to the filing. Other executives received smaller amounts.

In its proxy filing for its 2009 annual shareholders meeting, the Times recommended that shareholders vote for all board members up for reelection.

That includes two members sponsored by dissident investor Harbinger Capital Partners, which in 2008 threatened a proxy battle to get its nominees elected to the board. The Times agreed to their addition to the board last year.

The directors, Scott Galloway and James Kohlberg, will be elected by the Times’s public shareholders. “A” shareholders elect five members of the 15-member board. The Ochs-Sulzberger family, which holds the B shares, elects the rest.

The Times also said it plans to sell its company jet, a Falcon 50EX, which is made by Dassault Aviation SA. On Dassault’s website, the 50EX’s solicit best offers. One, built in 1998, carries an asking price of nearly $13 million.

New York Times shares closed at $3.86, down 16 cents, on the New York Stock Exchange.

Editing by Andre Grenon