Arthur Sulzberger Disputes Report of Jill Abramson Pay Gap

Jill AbramsonNew York Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger sent a note to staff earlier this afternoon disputing reports of a pay gap between ousted executive editor Jill Abramson and her predecessor Bill Keller.

“It is simply not true that Jill’s compensation was significantly less than her predecessors. Her pay is comparable to that of earlier executive editors. In fact, in 2013, her last full year in the role, her total compensation package was more than 10% higher than that of her predecessor, Bill Keller, in his last full year as Executive Editor, which was 2010. It was also higher than his total compensation in any previous year,” Mr. Sulzberger wrote, in response to a widely circulated story by The New Yorker‘s Ken Auletta.

Shortly after the news broke yesterday, Mr. Auletta reported that Ms. Abramson had recently discovered that her compensation was “considerably less” than that of Mr. Keller. Citing a “close associate,” Mr. Auletta recounted that Ms. Abramson confronted the top brass and, according to another of Ms. Abramson’s friend, the pay gap was closed after she complained.

But in Mr. Sulzberger’s newsroom memo this afternoon, he denied that compensation played any role in Ms. Abramson’s dismissal and reiterated that she was let go for issues related to her management of the newsroom.

“Compensation played no part whatsoever in my decision that Jill could not remain as executive editor. Nor did any discussion about compensation,” Mr. Sulzberger wrote. “The reason – the only reason – for that decision was concerns I had about some aspects of Jill’s management of our newsroom, which I had previously made clear to her, both face-to-face and in my annual assessment.”

Full note below:

Dear Colleagues,

I am writing to you because I am concerned about the misinformation that has been widely circulating in the media since I announced Jill Abramson’s departure yesterday. I particularly want to set the record straight about Jill’s pay as Executive Editor of The Times.

It is simply not true that Jill’s compensation was significantly less than her predecessors. Her pay is comparable to that of earlier executive editors. In fact, in 2013, her last full year in the role, her total compensation package was more than 10% higher than that of her predecessor, Bill Keller, in his last full year as Executive Editor, which was 2010. It was also higher than his total compensation in any previous year.

Comparisons between the pensions of different executive editors are difficult for several reasons. Pensions are based upon years of service with the Company. Jill’s years of service were significantly fewer than those of many of her predecessors. Secondly, as you may know, pension plans for all managers at The New York Times were frozen in 2009. But this and all other pension changes at the Company have been applied without any gender bias and Jill was not singled out or differentially disadvantaged in any way.

Compensation played no part whatsoever in my decision that Jill could not remain as executive editor. Nor did any discussion about compensation. The reason – the only reason – for that decision was concerns I had about some aspects of Jill’s management of our newsroom, which I had previously made clear to her, both face-to-face and in my annual assessment.

This Company is fully committed to equal treatment of all its employees, regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation or any other characteristic. We are working hard to live up to that principle in every part of our organization. I am satisfied that we fully lived up to that commitment with regard to Jill.

Arthur