Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Recession Chronicles: Bonus Track

BREAKING: Inquirer CEO Tierney Got Bonus Before Bankruptcy

Though the company teetered on the verge of bankruptcy at the time, this past December Philadelphia Media Holdings awarded bonuses to CEO Brian P. Tierney, vice president of finance Richard Thayer and Daily News publisher Mark Frisby.

PMH board chair Bruce Toll confirmed bonuses of $350,000 for Tierney and $150,000 each for Thayer and Frisby in a phone conversation on Friday. Reached by phone, Frisby told Philadelphia, “The numbers are wrong. But I’m not going to give you a number.”

Frisby refused to comment any further.

Tierney did not immediately return phone calls requesting a comment for this story.

Thayer could not be reached by e-mail for a comment.

Toll had first told Philadelphia that no bonuses had been awarded when asked earlier this week, but agreed to look into the matter. Today he said the bonuses had in fact been paid.

“I forgot,” he said. “I’m involved with something like 20 companies, and [when Philadelphia first called] you were asking me to remember what happened in December. But when I asked around, some other board members reminded me we had approved the bonuses.”

PMH filed for bankruptcy in February. Toll, of the homebuilding Toll Brothers company, confirmed that the PMH board knew the company¹s fiscal situation was dire. “The financial condition of the papers was obviously not good,” said Toll. “We knew what was going to happen sooner or later.”

So why give out $650,000 in bonuses? “We thought it was deserved,” he said. “But we can’t get into the details because we’re involved in bankruptcy proceedings.”

It had earlier been revealed that Tierney received a raise in December, just before Christmas, boosting his pay roughly 40 percent to $850,000. The company initially defended the raise, which was revealed in its bankruptcy filing, by saying that Tierney had taken on extra responsibilities since his initial deal had been struck.

Tierney gave up the raise shortly after it was revealed. Frisby and Thayer simultaneously gave back smaller raises. Now comes news of the bonuses, which were awarded just two months after the company’s unions voted to postpone $25-a-week raises for each of its members at the request of PMH.

UPDATE: Saturday morning, Bruce Toll called back and left a voice mail message saying he is not actually sure of the bonus amounts.

Brian Tierney still has not returned phone calls requesting a comment. — Steve Volk


Referencing a remark by Jon Stewart of the state of today seems appropriate. “Where is the outrage? Other countries would be rioting in the streets – but our country sends out emails in “CAPITAL LETTERS.”

Bonus Track

A Silent Epidemic

We awake momentarily.
Bored, our eyes close as we drift
back to sleep.
Vulnerable, the devil sharpens the knife’s edge
of complacency
Creating the United States of Amnesia

Peter Tobia
Penns Landing, Philadelphia


  1. 40 % raise???? Outrageous! He got a 40% raise while the union couldn't even get a $25 a week raise. Unreal. Remember for years we got 2% raises when all these execs were getting all the money? It just makes me so angry. If all of us workers out there refused to buy any goods for a week, all these execs would never see bonuses again because our economy would collapse. They live off our backs. We are modern day serfs.

  2. Beautiful photo & appropriate poem.....

    But our country sent a message my electing Barack Obama as the President of the United States of America. That's how we spoke up.... in a civilized manner thru voting.... not rioting in the streets and causing fear.... Let's hope complacency has no place in our vocabulary in the future..... Let's look forward with a new leader....