Is it normal for publishers to buy luxury cars?

[Fancy schmancy, although not the car in question]

In an e-mail, one of my readers poses provocative questions about their paper’s new publisher, and the perks that came with the job. Here’s the e-mail, edited to preserve the reader’s anonymity:

Our site recently got a new publisher, and they promptly went out and purchased a fancy luxury car for themselves. The paperwork came in the mail the other day and was routed to my office. It didn’t have a name on it, so I opened it to see where it went. Inside, was the invoice for the car (along with a check to get it registered from the dealer). What struck me as funny was:

  • They purchased the vehicle three hours away from our site, when there are just as many quality dealers in our town.
  • The vehicle was registered to our site, not to the publisher.
  • The purchase price was nearly equal to two full-time employee salaries (when we are on a hiring freeze, again).
So, does this seem normal? I know many company presidents get perks including cars, but I don’t know if publishers of a failing newspaper are privy to the same perks. And is it usually the individual sites that pay for a publisher’s new ride, or is it Gannett?

Anyone have an answer to these questions? Post your replies in the comments section, below. To e-mail confidentially, use this link from a non-work computer; see Tipsters Anonymous Policy in the green sidebar, upper right.

Earlier: An Indianapolis blogger, a ‘500’ pace car — and a penis, and Publishers getting free gas from company pump?

[Photo: The reader didn’t specify the car in question, so I’m illustrating this post with a Lamborghini Spyder, which costs up to $264,000, Wikipedia says]


19 Responses to “Is it normal for publishers to buy luxury cars?”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    I’m not privy to which execs at my paper (Detroit) get company paid rides as part of their overall compensation plan. I assume at the very least the publisher does and he drives a Chrysler 300. The previous CEO ordered up a brand spankin new Suburban when he came onboard but he only lasted a short time before heading off to a warmer climate and the Suburban has since been relegated to fleet loaner use. Our GM drives a Lincoln crossover SUV, the CFO a Cadillac CTS, Advertising VP a Ford SUV, Circ VP a Mercedes SUV, Marketing VP a Lexus SUV, Operations VP has a new Pontiac Solstice and IT VP a Honda Element. Oh, our Client Solutions VP showed up the other day in a brand new Acura. I know that I’ve left off a few but it’s near impossible to keep track of all fifteen of our VP’s cars!

  2. Anonymous Says:

    What? Only one Honda? No Toyota? No hybrids? Where are you, man, Motor City? lol

  3. Anonymous Says:

    I remember stories of Barry Bingham Sr. (former owner of the Courier-Journal) driving an older model junker car. I’d love to see a publisher drive a nice, but practical car…

    I just assumed all the VPs and Publishers actually paid for their cars out of the money they received as a salary… just like everyone else in rank and file… Is this not the case?

    Check out the link below of how CEOs should lead by example. C-J article of where University of Louisville President refused pay increase and bonus. Perhaps some of the fat cats at Gannett should learn to do likewise.

  4. Anonymous Says:

    Here we go again. Let’s complain about the cars that everyone drives!

    You have to be kidding! You idiots are now walking the parking lots to take inventory of everyone’s cars? Are you all practicing for your next job at Avis “We Try Harder”!

    Clearly there is nothing new to write about on this blog and you are all falling for the bait.

    I thought you were all smarter than that!

    Full disclosure: I drive a Prius.

  5. Anonymous Says:

    I believe that only the Publishers get an allowance for a new car based on the size of their site. I don’t think VPs get an allowance at all. Most of the allowances don’t cover the cost of a new car and the employee has to pay out of pocket for the difference. If the publisher wants to drive an expensive car, he/she is willing to pay the price.

  6. Anonymous Says:

    Pubs get caes and all thier gas is paid for. While reporters and circulation drivers, who also represent us, drive junk cars.
    That could be a cost saving measure, stop buying Pubs cars. # 1 they can afford it, # 2 the car does not generate revnue and # 3 it does set a bad example when the Publisher is driving a new car every 3-4 years and we are on hiring frezzzes tnat effect revenue and making crazy cuts.
    Just an idea

  7. Anonymous Says:

    Anon 8:41 AM – What you fail to recognize is that employees do understand the need to cut costs. They look for savings within their departments and site-wide, especially in the latter when told to make cuts in their department that yield far better returns on assets than other areas of their newspaper that aren’t being cut.

    Unfortunately, more than a few top managers have made cuts overall harder to swallow when it’s apparently business as usual for the them, especially when those perks and personal services included employees fueling cars and delivering groceries.

    More than a few employees feel that company assets could be better used – especially when newspaper quality suffers as a result. Yet, you’d rather complain about people bringing this type of waste up. Interesting.

  8. Shirley Says:

    I don’t know about everywhere, but Gannett furnished a new car to every publisher at every paper I ever worked (four states. They were nice, but not flashy. Size depended on the size of the publisher’s family.
    The BEST car, however, was a red Chrysler convertible puchased my Marj Paxson, Muskogee Phoenix publisher for a time, after she retired (early) from the company. It was HOT. BTW, she paid for it herself.

  9. john reinan Says:

    I’ve always been puzzled by this kind of perk for highly compensated business executives in general. For example, some NBA coaches — who make $2-5 million a year — get a clothing allowance so they can buy nice suits to wear on the sidelines.

    I always thought that someone making $2 million a year could afford to buy their own suits. Same with cars. Someone making a six- or seven-figure income should be able to afford their own ride. Give them a mileage allowance for business use, like everyone else gets, and call it a day.

  10. Anonymous Says:

    Publishers as a rule get a $25,900 car allowance to buy a new car which remains the property of Gannett. The title is registered in the name of the paper they work for. If they purchase a car for a higher amount then the publisher pays the difference. The car can be replaced after 5 years. So if you see a publisher driving a Lexus he or she is probably paying for half the cost. When comparing Gannett to other Fortune 500 companies the car allowance is at the low end of the scale.

  11. john reinan Says:

    Still, I ask: why shouldn’t someone making $200,000 a year or more buy their own car? Presumably the point of making a top salary is so that you can afford to support yourself.

    Who don’t companies — not just Gannett — give free parking to the people who make $40,000 a year instead of the executives? The lower-paid people would value it more and it would be a gesture that would really mean something to them.

  12. Anonymous Says:

    Low end of the scale or not when people are losing their jobs there is no room for this type of perk. One of the first rules of leadership is to lead by example. Instead we have a management group that has a “do as I say, not as I do” attitude.

  13. Anonymous Says:

    Anon 11:30AM

    If management takes a cut in pay and benefits should the rest of the employees? Pay cuts across the board to fair and equal. Everbody just take a 10% pay cut.

  14. Anonymous Says:

    Lets get real, if offered a free car, a salary increase, and a free parking spot, how many Gannett employees would turn that down? Do other employees feel the effect? Sure they do, but that’s the way its been since the beginning of time. And that my friend will never change.

  15. Anonymous Says:

    Here’s an excellent commentary regarding the exploitation that often happens when the CEO and Chairman are the same person (from Wednesday’s Wall Street Journal):

  16. Anonymous Says:

    There are a lot of things to complain about at this company, but this really isn’t one of them. Publisher gets a car. So what.

  17. Anonymous Says:

    In many markets (sadly), $29K would be about the starting salary for a young reporter. Or you could probably upgrade the computers in many papers’ entire newsrooms. Or purchase smart-phones for all the reporters to enable them to better do their jobs.

    Wouldn’t any of these ideas be better investments than a ride for the publisher?

  18. Anonymous Says:

    The publisher of Cherry Hill’s Courier-Post drives a Saturn Vue. And not even a brandy-spankin’ new one. I was impressed.

  19. Anonymous Says:

    To my knowledge only Publishers get the car perk at individual sites. Complaining about Publishers getting the perk is ridiculous. Let it go. It’s part of their overall compensation. Many Publishers – and some OC – also have country club memberships too. However, I think you do have an important point on how they spend those funds.

    A Publisher who snubs his local car dealers in favor of another town to buy a vehicle – without first giving them the chance to bid – doesn’t go unnoticed. Do you have your facts straight? How do you know this Publisher didn’t speak to his local dealers and could not get the best deal from them?

    Certainly what she/he decides to buy reflects on the company as well. A flash car in the times we now face could be a bad public image move in many markets.

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