SBJ/December 20 - 26, 1999/No Topic Name

Owners knew Tagliabue got $6M in ’98

The full ownership of the NFL knew about and approved Commissioner Paul Tagliabue's $6 million total compensation for the year that ended in March 1998, said Wayne Weaver, owner of the Jacksonville Jaguars and a member of the NFL owners' compensation committee.

"All the other owners knew the commissioner's salary, bonuses and deferred compensation," said Weaver. "That's why we voted 28 to nothing" to shoot down the claims of Oakland Raiders' owner Al Davis.

According to records filed by the league with the IRS, Tagliabue received $2.2 million in base salary for the year that ended on March 31, 1998. He also received $400,000 each from NFL Properties and NFL Enterprises. His deferred compensation from all three sources, according to the records obtained from the IRS, was $3 million.

While the $6 million figure pales in comparison to NBA Commissioner David Stern's estimated $9 million annual salary and bonus plan, it has become important as NFL owners deal with allegations that the deferred compensation to Tagliabue and 61 other NFL executives was paid without the approval of a majority of NFL owners.

Davis contended in court documents and before a meeting of owners earlier this month that all of the owners were aware of Tagliabue's base salary, but that only four were aware that Tagliabue received more than $3 million in deferred compensation and another $800,000 from the NFL divisions of properties and entertainment.

Weaver said that Tagliabue received a raise in 1998 and that, at that time, all the owners were informed of the full compensation package, including base salary, bonuses and deferred salary. He said Davis' claim may have been isolated to the compensation plan approved in 1994, but Weaver wasn't an NFL owner at the time.

New York Giants owner Bob Tisch had previously said that all the owners knew the full range of Tagliabue's salary. Other owners have been strong in their defense of the commissioner, but no other NFL owners would respond to compensation questions for the record.

Oakland Raiders attorney Kenneth Hausman backed Davis' version of events.

"Mr. Weaver's statement that all the owners knew of the three secret compensation plans and voted to approve them in 1998 is not accurate based on the evidence I have seen," said Hausman.

While records for the year ended March 31, 1999, are still unavailable, the league's preceding four years of tax filings show that the controversial deferred compensation plan had increasingly become an important part of Tagliabue's and ex-president Neil Austrian's total compensation (see chart). The effect of the benefits plan was to dramatically increase Tagliabue's pay far beyond the levels that had been previously reported by national media.

Between April 1, 1994, and March 31, 1998, according to the tax records, Tagliabue received $19.1 million in compensation, and 38 percent, or $7.3 million, came from a retirement plan that Davis says has reached a total of $100 million for 62 executives, including Tagliabue and Austrian.

The league paid Austrian $12.7 million during this period, and 42 percent, or $5.4 million, came in the form of deferred compensation, according to the tax records, which the NFL is required to file annually.

At the extraordinary meeting earlier this month, owners voted unanimously against Davis' resolution that would have subjected the entire executive deferred compensation fund to an independent investigation.

Weaver, referring to questions about the 1994 origination of the deferred compensation plan, said that the NFL had and still has some procedural problems. He said that's why the owners agreed to meet privately in New York on Jan. 18 to review the league's decision-making processes.

Other owners said that they plan to excuse the two executives during the discussion on deferred compensation and conduct a rare owners-only debate.

The IRS disclosures may not even be the full extent of Austrian's and Tagliabue's pay, the Raiders contend.

"There may be other moneys or compensation they received that might not be required to be reported to the IRS," said the team's attorney, Hausman.

The NFL declined to comment on all matters regarding the compensation of the two executives.

Notably, a lot of the pay and deferred compensation reported to the IRS came not directly from the NFL, but from its properties, enterprises and films divisions.

In the 12 months ended March 31, 1998, for example, Tagliabue received a base NFL salary of $2.2 million, plus $400,000 each from NFL Enterprises, the league's new-media unit, and Properties, the sponsorship and licensing unit. Similarly, the commissioner received $1.3 million in deferred compensation from the league, and $1.8 million in deferred pay from Properties and Enterprises.

While the NFL's 1999 tax record was not available, media reports from early 1998 said the NFL doubled Tagliabue's base pay to $5 million to reward him for signing a record $17.6 billion TV deal.


BEHIND THE PAYCHECKS
A year-by-year breakdown of compensation for top NFL executives (For 12 months ending March 31)
Source
Compensation
Deferred
Total
% deferred
Paul Tagliabue
1998
NFL
$2,201,173
$1,285,350
$3,486,523
37
NFL Properties
$400,000
$966,000
$1,366,000
71
NFL Enterprises
$400,000
$825,000
$1,225,000
67
Total
$3,001,173
$3,076,350
$6,077,523
51
1997
NFL
$2,676,892
$763,850
$3,440,742
22
NFL Properties
$200,000
$795,000
$995,000
80
NFL Enterprises
$200,000
$530,000
$730,000
73
Total
$3,076,892
$2,088,850
$5,165,742
40
1996
NFL
$2,311,924
$22,500
$2,334,424
1
NFL Properties
$480,000
$555,000
$1,035,000
54
NFL Enterprises
$360,000
$410,000
$770,000
53
NFL Films
$80,000
$60,000
$140,000
43
Total $3,231,924 $1,047,500 $4,279,424 24
1995
NFL
$2,052,828
$427,546
$2,480,374
17
NFL Properties
$176,605
$400,000
$576,605
69
NFL Enterprises
$142,609
$250,000
$392,609
64
NFL Films
$38,109
0
$38,109
0
NFL Management Council
$66,391
0
$66,391
0
Total
$2,476,542
$1,077,546
$3,554,088
30
Four-year total
$11,786,531
$7,290,246
$19,076,777
38
Neil Austrian
1998
NFL
$776,478
$438,017
$1,214,495
36
NFL Properties
$700,000
$735,000
$1,435,000
51
NFL Enterprises
$650,000
$727,500
$1,377,500
53
Total $2,126,478 $1,900,517 $4,026,995 47
1997
NFL
$720,673
$261,109
$981,782
27
NFL Properties
$700,000
$434,800
$1,134,800
38
NFL Enterprises
$700,000
$434,800
$1,134,800
38
Total
$2,120,673
$1,130,709
$3,251,382
35
1996
NFL
$533,510
$22,500
$556,010
4
NFL Properties
$600,000
$434,800
$1,034,800
42
NFL Enterprises
$600,000
$434,800
$1,034,800
42
NFL Films
$200,000
0
$200,000
0
Total
$1,933,510
$892,100
$2,825,610
32
1995
NFL
$821,018
$295,564
$1,116,582
26
NFL Properties
$170,082
$550,000
$720,082
76
NFL Enterprises
$170,082
$550,000
$720,082
76
NFL Films
$37,500
$50,000
$87,500
57
Total
$1,198,682
$1,445,564
$2,644,246
55
Four-year total
$7,379,343
$5,368,890
$12,748,233
42
Source: NFL Form 990 filings with Internal Revenue Service
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