OLD Media Moves

How will WSJ cover this executive compensation story?

January 4, 2006

I’m big on reading SEC filings, and the 8-K filed by Dow Jones disclosing the compensation of departing Wall Street Journal publisher Karen Elliott House is sure to draw a lot of attention as a follow-up to Tuesday’s major news of the management shakeup at the company.

House, according to the filing, which was first disclosed on Michelle Leder’s excellent blog, www.footnoted.org, will receive her regular salary for the next two years. (In 2004, the salary was more than $500,000, and the bonus was $180,000.)

In addition, the filing notes, “In accordance with the Company’s Separation Plan for Senior Management, after the conclusion of the transition period, Ms. House will continue to receive her regular salary for 24 months, as well as an amount equal to two
times her annual target bonus payable in 24 equal monthly installments. During this period, Ms. House will continue to participate in the Company’s employee benefit plans and programs. All of her stock options will remain outstanding and unvested options will continue to vest in accordance with the terms thereof. In addition, Ms. House will receive final awards with respect to her outstanding contingent stock rights grants under the Dow Jones 2001 Long-Term Incentive Plan.”

English translation: In addition to the two years’ salary, she’s getting stock options and other payments. Total severance package is in the seven figures.

The filing says that new CEO Richard Zannino and outgoing CEO Peter Kann, who happens to be House’s husband, have not negotiated their compensation plans yet.

House, who was once a reporter for the paper, has obviously made a nice chunk of change by switching over to the business side of the paper. But at a time when business journalists have been aggressively reporting egregious compensation packages for executives at other companies, I hope that the Journal doesn’t skirt her nice going away present by ignoring it as news in tomorrow’s paper. It will be particularly interesting to see how the Journal plays this story compared to other media.

If you’d like to read the filing, you can see it here. It’s not that long.

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