The New York Times death spiral continues

Bye, bye corporate jet! At long last, the beleaguered company is sacrificing top management's plaything, the ultimate status symbol. A long overdue cost saving mechanism in a time when the company's workers endure downsizing and cost reductions, even crowding themselves into smaller office space to save money.

Mark Fitzgerald of Editor & Publisher slogged through the New York Times ‘ proxy statement (issued Wednesday) and discovered some fascinating  information. The company has put its corporate jet up for sale. During the Iowa caucuses, in a now legendary incident, New York Times reporters flew out of Des Moines late at night on the company plane, while their colleagues had to spend the night in cold, unglamorous Des Moines. It was the Twilight of the Sulzbergers, though. The New York Times is no longer a step above.

Had Pinch Sulzberger foregone the use of the ultimate perk a year or more ago, the company could have fetched a good price.  In today's market, where many companies are selling and few buying, they will reap millions of dollars less.

But then, Pinch wouldn't have had the use of the jet for business trips (conveniently, the company still has a newspaper in Sarasota, FL) and some personal use, which he got for a bargain price compared to what he would pay to charter one on his own.

On the Fitz & Jen blog, Fitzgerald points out that Pinch reimbursed the company $11,189 for one personal trip, and quotes the formula used, which did not include any provision for the substantial fixed costs of a private jet.

From now on, if Pinch Sulzberger wants to continue to live large and leave a big carbon footprint, he will have to charter a jet from Netjets or Marquis.

It gets worse.

Fitzgerald finds the language in the proxy laying out bonuses top management paid themselves while the peons were getting laid off.

"Recognizing the impact of a multi-year salary freeze, however, the Committee approved one-time discretionary bonuses for Mr. Sulzberger, Jr. ($38,045), Ms. Robinson ($35,000), Mr. (Michael) Golden (Times Co. vice chairman) ($21,945), Mr. (Scott) Heekin-Canedy (New York Times president and general manager ($18,288), and Mr. (James M.) Follo (Times Co. CFO) ($21,600),"

In fairness, Pinch's total income has downsized, but remains lavish:

He collected a base salary of $1,087,000 and total compensation of $2,415, 847. In 2007, the salary was the same, but the total came to $3,429,280. In 2006, with the same base salary, Sulzberger's total compensation was $4,363,856.

Considering the dismal mess Pinch Sulzberger has made of the New York Times Company, his compensation is scandalously high.

Hat tip: Ed Lasky