SBJ/March 20 - 26, 2006/This Weeks News

Filings reveal Tagliabue, Upshaw pay

If NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue and his union counterpart, Gene Upshaw, are to retire in the next few years, as many have speculated, they will certainly have been well-compensated for their years of service.

For year ended March 31
In each year, total compensation
represents a mix of salary,
deferred pay and benefits.

Source: NFL tax returns
In the wake of the league’s new collective-bargaining agreement, reports surfaced that Tagliabue, who has been commissioner since 1989 and whose contract runs through the end of next season, would resign soon. He has denied that his departure is imminent.

Certainly he is one of the top-compensated commissioners in sports. In the calendar year that ended March 31, 2005, the most recent that public tax documents are available for the league, Tagliabue earned $9.58 million in total compensation, including benefits and deferred pay. That was a decline from the previous year, when he earned $11.3 million. The league wouldn’t comment on the commissioner’s pay.

Upshaw, who has been in his post since 1983 and has been widely lauded for the strategy the union deployed in winning significant player pay increases, earned $2.4 million in the year ended Feb. 28, 2005, according to the organization’s annual report filed with the Department of Labor. That figure includes pay, benefits and business disbursements.

Upshaw, whose contract employs him through 2008, receives less money each year because his contract was front-loaded. The previous year, he earned $2.7 million.

Another top labor negotiator for the league also has done well for himself. Harold Henderson, chairman of the NFL Management Council, the league’s negotiating arm, earned nearly $1.9 million in total compensation in the year ended March 31, 2005, according to the council’s most recently available public tax filing. That represented an 11 percent increase from the previous season, when Henderson earned $1.7 million in total compensation.

Upshaw’s No. 2 at the union, general counsel Richard Berthelsen, earned $587,738 in total compensation in the calendar year ended Feb. 28, 2005, according to the union’s report, up from $557,021 the year before.

Despite his declining pay, Upshaw remains the top-compensated union chief.

Major League Baseball Players Association executive director Don Fehr earns $1 million annually, according to the organization’s most recently filed annual report. Billy Hunter, executive director of National Basketball Players Association, earned $1.8 million, according to that group’s most recent annual report.

The Canada-based National Hockey League’s players union does not file reports with the U.S. Labor department, but published reports have pegged executive director Ted Saskin’s salary at $2.1 million.

Among big league commissioners, public information is harder to come by. Neither MLB nor the NBA is required to file tax returns publicly. The NHL files a public tax return, though the most recent report could not be obtained for this story. However, recently published reports have placed Commissioner Gary Bettman’s current pay at more than $3.5 million.

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