In the early days of the pandemic, leaders of main sports activities organizations from the NFL and MLB to the PGA Tour introduced they might take pay cuts. More exactly, they introduced they might take a wage minimize. Roger Goodell, the NFL commissioner, for instance, introduced in April 2020 that he would slash his wage to zilch. PGA Tour boss Jay Monahan made information by eliminating his wage quickly.

These have been seen as strikes to convey that the leaders of sports activities would really feel the ache of the pandemic’s financial devastation and that they understood their companies have been struggling. But what they didn’t say is that little of their compensation is paid in wage, however as a substitute in incentives, bonuses and advantages packages like retirement accounts. These components have been unaffected by the high-profile salary-cutting.

The normal thesis for commissioner pay is “base salary and a significant amount of bonus, probably up to six to eight times what your base salary is,” stated Jed Hughes, vice chairman with govt recruiter Korn Ferry the place he oversees the sports activities follow.

The New York Times reported last October that Goodell earned $63.9 million within the 2019-2020 fiscal yr (and once more within the 2020-2021 fiscal yr when he took his pay minimize). Similarly, Monahan introduced in March 2020 that he would forgo his salary, different PGA executives would see their pay minimize and the remainder of the greater than 1,100 staff would have their pay frozen at 2019 ranges.


PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan. (Kyle Terada / USA Today)

A overview of the tour’s tax return filed for 2020 reveals Monahan is definitely credited with incomes $14.1 million, by far the most important package deal he has obtained in his tenure — Dustin Johnson was the one golfer on tour who made extra that yr. Other PGA Tour executives earned wholesome seven figures in 2020, together with Ron Price, chief working officer, who’s listed on the tax kind as incomes $8.6 million. The PGA paid out $130.5 million in 2020 in compensation to its workers, together with executives, in keeping with the 2020 tax return (the determine was $123.3 million in 2019).

Goodell is paid by group house owners, so any gripes about his pay gained’t bother him until it comes from them, however Monahan and his officers are paid by a players-run group, so it’s the golfers’ name find out how to compensate their tour workers.

“The commissioner’s compensation is determined by the Management Development and Compensation Committee of the PGA TOUR Policy Board,” Price wrote in an e mail. “This committee utilizes an independent compensation consultant to advise them in determining the appropriate amount of compensation for the commissioner based on the competitive market … a substantial portion of the commissioner’s annual compensation (approximately 90 percent) is at-risk and subject to his performance against objectives established by the Management Development and Compensation Committee.”

Monahan is paid much less in whole than the massive sports activities league commissioners, although as a share of income he’s seemingly on the high. The NFL, for instance, is at round $16 billion of income, whereas the PGA is round $1.5 billion.

The PGA Tour is structured as a nonprofit, so it’s required to reveal its tax return, which incorporates breakdowns of the highest compensation paid to high executives. The NFL and MLB shed their league workplace nonprofit standing within the final decade, partly to protect govt pay figures from the general public. Media stories about MLB commissioner Rob Manfred taking a pay minimize in 2020 pegged his pay at $11 million, although a supply stated he’s now incomes not less than twice that.

The NBA has by no means filed as a nonprofit, so the pay of its executives has not been public, however one supply stated commissioner Adam Silver’s pay is nicely north of Manfred’s.

Monahan’s $14.1 million sum listed within the tax return consists of $2.8 million of incentives that have been scheduled to be paid out after 2020 if he achieved sure enterprise metrics and an actuarial estimate of $3.1 million earned in post-retirement advantages.

As a outcome, the tour stated whereas IRS guidelines require it to reveal all of the numbers beneath 2020 compensation, the more true quantity of his pay is $8.2 million. Only $805,583 of that’s wage, the class that was affected by his pay hiatus in the course of the pandemic. The relaxation is sort of all incentive pay and bonus. Similarly, slightly below $620,000 of Price’s package deal is wage, with the remaining bonus and retirement advantages.

Korn Ferry commissioned a research in 2018 of high sports activities leaders’ compensation, Hughes stated, and located practically all main skilled sports activities organizations paid their commissioners and high executives largely with bonuses and incentives. Goodell’s first deal in 2006 was structured this manner, Hughes stated, and the packages have simply grow to be extra incentive-laden since (in 2017, Cowboys proprietor Jerry Jones rallied towards his commissioner’s subsequent contract, which made the present deal much more incentive-reliant).

As a outcome, Goodell was paid handsomely in 2020 and 2021 for spearheading a brand new collective bargaining settlement and the league’s new media offers. And beneath Monahan in 2020, the PGA was one of many first to return after society all however shut down in March of that yr.

Those occasions largely didn’t have spectators, resulting in income losses. According to the tax return, revenues slipped from $1.54 billion to $1.16 billion. The group’s web property held steadier, nevertheless, sliding 3.4 p.c to $1.19 billion as bills additionally declined.

The PGA forecasts in 2022 it can high $1.5 billion of income, of which $716 million will likely be consumed by bills.

Commissioners’ bonuses are normally structured so a few of it’s pegged to a monetary metric, akin to income, and the rest discretionary, that means a compensation committee decides.

Sports just like the PGA and NFL are within the leisure universe, Hughes added, so their CEO-type pay has to replicate how organizations from that sphere, like Walt Disney or Viacom, pay their high brass. When Korn Ferry wrote its report in 2018, the sports activities CEO pay construction was stacked up towards their friends atop the media conglomerates and located largely the buildings have been related.

Public firms may pay their CEOs with fairness, so high sports activities organizations have to beat that deficit with profitable bonus buildings to maintain high expertise.

(Top photograph of Roger Goodell: Gary Vasquez / USA Today)



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