BeloWatch

'The Observer 1': The $99 million CEO-- plus Burl hits the jackpot
Forget the Fortune 500. Put Texas Monthly's annual special issue on the Texas 100--the 100 richest Texans--out of your mind.

Most of all, forget about the D-FW Top 100, the Dallas Morning News' entry in the ranking sweepstakes.

This week, BeloWatch introduces the Dallas Observer 1, a henceforth annual column on--you guessed it--the A.H. Belo Corporation.

Like the D-FW Top 100, the Observer 1 will explore who made what among top executives and the progress of women and minorities in the corporate boardroom and executive ranks. But unlike the D-FW Top 100, it will address those issues in regard to only a single company.

A good place, of course, for BeloWatch to start is the News' coverage of Belo in the D-FW Top 100, a 24-page special section published on Sunday, May 7. BeloWatch will supplement that compilation with discussion of a rose-tinted News business-section report on progress of minorities and women among the D-FW Top 100, also published May 7; review of Belo's 1994 annual report and proxy statement; and the usual astute BeloWatch analysis.

The D-FW 100 reported that Belo CEO Robert Decherd, head of the 38th-ranked area public company based on 1994 annual revenues, was the 16th-highest paid executive. Belo, of course, enjoyed record profits in 1994.

Decherd's total haul, according to the News: $2,067,662, including a $556,200 salary, a $400,275 bonus, and long-term stock awards and options worth $1,111,187. That figure doesn't include $75,540 in insurance premiums and retirement benefits that the company paid him, bringing his total compensation to a nifty $2,143,202.

But Decherd's greatest wealth is in his 8 percent share of Belo stock. According to Belo's proxy report, he owned 1.59 million shares as of March 17. At a price of $62.38 a share at the close of the market on May 22, that makes his holdings worth about $99 million.

Two other Belo executives topped the $1 million-a-year mark for annual compensation. Broadcast division president Ward Huey made $1,725,010--$441,200 in salary, $353,278 in bonus, $808,753 in long-term stock awards and options, and $121,779 in insurance and retirement benefits. As of March 17, Huey owned 139,276 shares of stock, now worth $8.7 million.

But this was also the year that News publisher-editor Burl Osborne blew past the million-dollar barrier, with a salary of $423,984 (up 10 percent from the previous year), a $255,946 bonus (up 49 percent from the previous year), $720,219 in long-term stock awards and options, and $152,309 in insurance and retirement monies.

Grand total: $1,552,458, proving the fruits of monopoly publishing are sweet indeed. Osborne's 80,445 shares of Belo stock are now worth more than $5 million.

The News' second May 7 report, written by Diana Kunde, offered a surprisingly upbeat account on the progress of the historically disenfranchised in the corporate hierarchy.

It was headlined: "Minorities and women: Steps to the top," with a subheadline reading: "Minorities and women have made gains in the past year at the 100 largest corporations in the Dallas-Fort Worth area."

This was an unusually bold statement for a newspaper that typically refuses to declare the sky blue, unless it's followed by "experts say." And, in fact, it's literally true. Minorities and women have made progress at these companies.

But pitifully little. And they've got an extraordinarily long way to go.
The News' numbers show minorities now hold 4.6 percent of board seats at the area's hundred largest public companies, compared with 3.8 percent last year. Women--Anglo and minority--now hold 3.8 percent of directorships, compared with last year's 3.6 percent. There are only 5 minority women sitting in 834 board seats.

Not much to brag about.
Women hold 5.4 percent of the officer positions at the D-FW 100, compared with 4.5 percent last year. Minorities hold a pitiful 1.3 percent of executive positions, compared with 1.1 percent last year.

Despite these feeble improvements, Kunde writes that the News' survey revealed "a significant increase in minorities in corporate boardrooms." To be precise, the number climbed from 31 minority directors to a grand total of 38--out of 834 positions.

The number of women holding officer positions in these companies crept up from 37 to 45; there are no minority women officers, and only 11 minority men, filling 832 executive slots.

Kunde trumpets this movement as "significant changes for women and minorities after two virtually flat years." (One wonders if the News would characterize decreases of similar proportions in minority ranks as reflecting "significant changes.")

The paper's own information belies these cheery conclusions. Kunde noted that women comprise 46 percent of the labor force, "yet they hold 3.8 percent of corporate board seats among the D-FW 100." By comparison, she wrote, women in a 1993 survey of Fortune 1000 firms held 6.9 percent of directors' seats.

The Belo board is better than most. Two of its 13 directors are minority men. There is one minority female and one Anglo woman (Robert Decherd's sister). But the company's top executive ranks show no progress; they include no women and no minorities.

It's impressive that the Morning News business staff is reporting this information for the third consecutive year. It's disturbing how much it sugar-coats the findings and excuses the local corporate world's dismal progress. Where are the outraged editorials?

Better just to stick to reading the Observer 1.

 
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