Shapiro gives board more journalism experience

Neal Shapiro (left), named to Gannett’s board of directors yesterday, is a former president of NBC News who is now president of the non-profit that oversees New York’s fine public television station, WNET. Maddeningly for a news-media company, Gannett doesn’t give Shapiro’s age. This story suggests he’s about 49. His brief bio on Wikipedia is here. His longer WNET bio is here.

As near as I can tell — the company’s statement doesn’t make it clear — Shapiro replaces Louis Boccardi, the former CEO of the Associated Press; Boccardi retired from the board after turning 70, effective Aug. 27. So, CEO Craig Dubow is swapping one director with a journalism background for another — a good thing. Of course, Shapiro’s experience is more New Media, given his TV background, where Boccardi was more Old Media.

With Shapiro’s appointment, the board once more has nine members. (Here’s what the board looks like, prior to Shapiro’s appointment.)

Shapiro has another distinction. By my count, he’s the fifth director appointed since Dubow became CEO in July 2005. That means a majority of the board is now beholden in some way to Dubow. In the world of corporate governance, that strengthens Dubow’s hand even more as he restructures the company.

Of course, directors don’t take these jobs solely out of the goodness of their heart. Based on rates published for 2006 in the most recent proxy report to shareholders, GCI directors are paid $45,000 a year, plus another $2,000 for each meeting they attend (typically, four a year). They also get $15,000 more per year if they run one of the board’s committees and $1,000 for each committee meeting attended. And they get 1,250 shares of stock or 5,000 options on stock.

All in all, that’s not much compensation. It’s not uncommon for some publicly traded companies to pay directors an annual base fee of $150,000 — often, much, much more.

[Photo: WNET]

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