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Volume 20 No. 46
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Goodell's pay set to double

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s recent five-year contract extension will, by the end of its term, roughly double his current annual pay of about $10 million, sources said.

Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank, chairman of the league’s compensation committee, declined to comment on financial details but confirmed the extension would bring Goodell in line with other top sports commissioners. MLB’s Bud Selig is believed to earn more than $20 million annually.

Unlike many top business executives, Goodell has no company shares or options.
“If you compare [Goodell] to any of the other commissioners in other sports, we think he would rank very high in that group, and he needs to be compensated on that basis,” Blank said in an interview at the Super Bowl.

Goodell, the shortest-tenured of the major sports league commissioners, has long trailed Selig and presumably NBA chief David Stern, whose compensation has never been public. MLB several years ago changed its tax status to for-profit, thereby eliminating the requirement to publicize top executive pay. Before it made that move, though, MLB disclosed Selig’s total compensation for the year ending October 2007 as $18.35 million, and he has had two contract extensions since then that are widely believed to have taken his annual compensation north of $20 million.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman’s total compensation was $7.5 million for the 2009-10 season, according to that league’s most-recent tax filing. MLS Commissioner Don Garber in 2010 received a new contract to lead that league through 2014 that sources at the time said could push his total pay to more than $3 million a year.

The NFL does file its tax returns publicly and is due to do so by Wednesday unless it seeks an extension. Because of problems with its e-filing system, the Internal Revenue System is allowing not-for-profits to file late. The NFL Players Association, for example, has used the grace period, delaying its usual mid-January filing.

In the NFL’s most-recent public return, filed last year, Goodell’s compensation was $9.89 million with a contract running to 2014. His money includes deferred pay, bonus and other benefits, in addition to base salary.

The filing due out this week will reveal Goodell’s pay through the 12 months ended March 31, 2011. That period will reflect the first several weeks of the lockout, when Goodell said he would take a $1 salary.

The five-year extension, announced in the run-up to the Super Bowl, runs through March 2019 and rewards Goodell handsomely for overseeing the most successful sports league in the country. The new employment contract also can be viewed in the context of Goodell’s role in negotiating an end to the labor standoff last year that saw a big swing in revenue to the owners from the players.

Cathy Griffin, a sports compensation adviser, said it is important in assessing the commissioner’s pay to consider that because the NFL is a private company, and the owners are the equity stakeholders, Goodell has no company shares or options. Taken in that light, she said, Goodell’s pay is competitive for the head of a major entertainment and sports brand. “He has been uniquely trained for this job so he is worth a fortune,” Griffin said.

Indeed, Goodell began his career at the NFL as in intern in 1982 and rose through the ranks, working as his predecessor’s number two executive. When Paul Tagliabue retired in 2006, the owners elected Goodell to succeed him, and three years later gave him what would be his first, five-year extension.

“His interests are not in being loved by everybody but respected by a lot of people,” said Blank, also the co-founder of The Home Depot. “He is loved by a lot of people … but first and foremost, he is respected.”