Friday 21 October 2016

The real story behind the Times Rich List

Liam Collins & Jody Corcoran

Published 30/11/2003 | 00:11

THE executive remuneration (pay, to you and me) of the Irish Times top people disclosed in a mind-numbing page of detail on Wednesday failed somewhat to show the real packages when bonuses, benefit-in-kind and pensions are taken into account.

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When these figures are added, it is likely that the top basic salary of ?296,000 for editor Geraldine Kennedy might be boosted by up to 81.5 per cent - giving real pay rates somewhere in the region of ?530,000 to ?550,000.

This year the big beneficiaries of ?621,000 in bonuses were managing director Maeve Donovan and deputy MD Michael Austen, who each got around ?200,000 in bonus payments. The rest was shared between the other executives, with Geraldine Kennedy getting ?40,000.

However, next year, when she will have a full year as editor, Kennedy will do better, and her package will just about match Donovan's.

The downtrodden hacks in D'Olier Street were stunned by the week's events in which John Waters, the only columnist to speak out about the issue of the vast top-level salaries, was sacked and then re-hired. (Well, Tintin O'Toole also had a go, but it was buried in the Sunday Times Culture section and he didn't have a swipe at Madam).

The message sent out by the sacking of Waters was clear: speak out and get the chop; so almost no other member of staff was prepared to talk on or off the record about the disclosures during the week. So much for the paper that vaunted its reputation on the clarion calls for openness and accountability at the top of Irish business and politics.

After the dismissal and hasty return of John Waters, editor Geraldine Kennedy called a snap meeting with newsroom staff on Tuesday at which there was, unsurprisingly, no dissent and much forelock-tugging from the humble hacks.

It also seems that the only-slightly-disclosed top pay packages are now an accepted fact of life in D'Olier Street, and directors can look forward to really letting rip next year if the paper actually becomes profitable, as expected.

Beneath the detail disclosed by the paper it is emerging that directors' bonuses could be somewhere in the region of 40 per cent, with an additional benefit-in-kind payment worth about a further 6.5 per cent. Adding special pension contributions with a probable value of 35 per cent of income, this gives the top earners an additional 81.5 per cent on top of salary.

After the Two Madams the next top earner in the IT is the colourful deputy MD, Michael Austen, who is likely to have a package worth around ?400,000, while the other execs are struggling to survive on paltry sums of between ?200,000 and ?300,000.

Wednesday's "disclosure" confirmed the amazing ?100,000-a-year index-linked payment to ex-editor Conor Brady but was somewhat oblique about the settlement with the former chairman and chief executive, Major McDowell. It seems remarkable that the man who led the paper from obscurity to its heyday in the Seventies and Eighties left empty-handed while Brady power-steered his Jaguar off into a very comfy semi-retirement on ?100,000-plus a year until 2114, when his ever-larger pension kicks in.

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