New York Times CEO Walks With $15 Million

The New York Times (NYSE: NYT) today continued its recent penchant for making the news as well as reporting it. New details are emerging about a handsome pay package the company will give outgoing CEO Janet Robinson.

Robinson’s $4.5 million consulting contract for 2012 was revealed in SEC documents filed late last week but the details of the full package won’t be filed until the company’s 10-Q in late March. According to Reuters and confirmed by paidContent, the package will be more than $15 million, including the consulting fee and $10.9 million in pension benefits that would vest two years earlier than planned. Robinson has been with the company 28 years, the past seven as CEO. The amounts are in addition to stock options Robinson has accrued over the years and any performance-based programs. It’s not clear how it will be paid out.

Executives have been tight-lipped about the reasons for Robinson’s abrupt resignation but there has been plenty of speculation ranging from NYTCo Chairman Arthur Sulzberger, Jr.’s desire for new leadership, particularly with digital in mind, to pressures from the family to the suggestion that the working relationship between Sulzberger, who is also publisher of the NYT and Robinson was no longer as smooth as it once was.

Earlier this week, the company confirmed that it was in advanced talks to sell its 16-paper Regional Media Group to Halifax Media Holdings. The price is likely to be in the $140-$170 million range; the talks have been ongoing for months and the announcement could come this week.

Today’s news about what some already viewed as an outsized pay package is likely to elicit further grumblings; one of the union’s representing some of NYT employees issued a press release late last week with the basic theme: the Times is hypocritical for paying a large amount to Robinson when it is a frequent critic of Wall Street and corporate excess. Robinson — with Sulzberger as an active chairman — headed the company during difficult labor negotiations, presiding over staff reductions through buyouts and layoffs.

A little context about Robinson’s pay: her salary was frozen at $1 million plus percentage of a 200 percent bonus for several years and was reduced by 5 percent for most of 2009. None of the named NYTCo execs, including Robinson and Sulzberger, received any payout for the 2008-10 long-term performance awards.

The media world is also humming about Robinson’s possible replacement. As we reported earlier, likely internal candidates include Scott Heekin-Canedy, president and GM of the flagship paper, and Chris Mayer, publisher of The Boston Globe. Denise Warren, GM of and chief advertising officer of the NYT and the NYT Media Group, may also be in the running.