When new worlds collide: Barrag.com
By Thomas Van Flein
In the last month the Bar Rag has had its books unexpectedly audited. (And if it wasn't for those meddling kids none of this would have happened). As most of you know, for years we have been able to make our most important
decisions outside of the public eye, and our spending has gotten a little out of control according to some self-appointed 'watchdogs.' Our public financial statements did not exactly reflect what was occurring on the street. Not that anyone objected, not even our accountants. Truth be told, it was their idea in the first place to list all of our expenses as assets and they were the ones who first convinced us how our compensation had not kept up with the marketplace for CEO's. Plus, our friends and family members, I mean our independent board members, agreed, so, it was pretty much unanimous.
And what expenses there were! The staff meetings in Vegas, or the fine art collection that somehow was purchased by the Bar Rag but ended up in the various homes of Bar Rag staff are particularly memorable. The generous bonuses we raked in after every 'successful' issue. Now it seems, there are questions, and we are not happy about all of this sudden scrutiny. Nobody understands just how difficult it is to be a high level executive at a major media publication. The stress of another deadline, the pressure of another noon lunch meeting or the dilemma of how to word a headline is too much for many. We had no choice but to pay what may seem, to the uninformed, as exorbitant salary and benefits, but to those of us who truly know, it was not excessive but well earned. Trust us on that. Many on the Bar Rag feel underpaid and one or two junior executives looked visibly disappointed when this year's 'Fun in the Sun' work meeting was booked in Kauai instead of Bali.
Let me explain how we reached our salary decisions. I am certain that after you understand our reasoning, you will be placated and this whole 'investigation' will be dropped and we can get back 'work' and using your money the way we see fit. In setting my salary and benefits at the Bar Rag, and those of our top executives, we first turned to other media conglomerates for guidance. Our thinking was, if it is good enough for Time-Warner and its board of directors, how could we go wrong? In 2001, AOL/Time-Warner CEO Gerald Levin made $77,374,633 in total compensation and he has another $127,421,550 in unexercised stock options from previous years. That seemed reasonable to us. Some of our board members even wondered out loud how he could make ends meet, but we concluded with some coupon clipping and bargain hunting, he could make do.
We also factored in performance. The Bar Rag has never made a profit. Although the ink may look black as you read this, believe me, it's all red back at headquarters. But, in 2001, average corporate profits were down 35 percent and average stock values were down 13 percent. At the same time, median corporate CEO pay increased 7 percent. So we concluded that performance should not be tied to our pay rate since that was how it was done on Wall Street. Plus, think of the tax savings! Also, we need more money to give us incentive to work harder in order to, well, spend more money, which is what we have to do in order to beat the terrorists. So, if you question our benefits, you are just letting the terrorists win.
You may compare your own earnings to our Bar Rag compensation package and feel that something is amiss. Do not be alarmed. Since 1980, we note (and Business Week reports) that the average pay of regular people increased just 66 percent, while CEO pay grew an astounding 1,996 percent. That should explain why our Bar Rag compensation packages are so lucrative and your take home pay is less then a signing bonus for a minor league outfielder. We hope that this information will help ease your concerns now that you know we were just following the lead on Wall Street and doing what our 'consultants' told us.
Some of you may still be unhappy with this flagrant misuse of your bar dues. And maybe you will want a new editorial and executive staff and have us terminated. We actually beat you to the punch on that one as well. Our employment contracts have termination clauses that require a substantial cash payment, payable over the next 20 years, if we are terminated without cause. If we are convicted of any crimes or other wrongdoings or terminated for cause, the payout is double. So let us go if you think you can afford it. We hope you do. There is a little spot in a non-extradition country where the Bar Rag has its retirement villa, and we would not mind a good reason to spend some quality time there.