The cost of dismissing Ken Stern as NPR chief

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NPR’s David Folkenflik reports that former NPR chief executive Ken Stern was paid more than $1.3 million in fiscal 2008, the year in which he was ousted from NPR’s top job. Folkenflik got an early look at NPR’s tax documents for 2008 and did some math to figure out the cost to NPR for Stern’s hasty exit. “The actual cost of the buyout was not broken out in the documents for the fiscal year ending on Sept. 30, 2008. But in the previous year, Stern earned about $426,000. So the tax records reflect a payment beyond that of an additional $900,000,” Folkenflik reports. In a statement, Stern explained that his NPR contract stipulated that he would be given four years to pursue his agenda as c.e.o. “I sought a contract that offered me duration rather than salary — in fact, I said that I would take whatever salary the Board deemed appropriate,” Stern said in the statement. “When the Board chose to exercise its right to change CEOs in 2008, despite the fact that NPR was exceeding every financial goal and audience growth target online and on-air, it did so with the knowledge it had the legal obligation to make good immediately on the terms of my contract.” The revelation about Stern’s compensation prompted NPR to inform its staff that “no taxpayer dollars were involved” in the buy-out package. “In addition, current NPR CEO Vivian Schiller wrote that the company no longer signs long-term contracts with executives, including herself,” Folkenflik reports. The IRS Form 990 for fiscal 2008, which was the basis for Folkenflik’s story, is to be released by NPR today. Look for it to be posted here.

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