No Zucker ‘Exit Package,’ But What a Bonus

TheWrap has obtained details of the NBCU's chief $30M contract

EXCLUSIVE

UPDATE:

Jeff Zucker's contract with NBC Universal, with an annual base salary of $6.3 million, also includes a guaranteed minimum annual bonus of $1.5 million and other lucrative performance incentives both short- and long-term, according to a bond offering document obtained by TheWrap.

While some details of Zucker's package, which began in February of 2007 and was amended last November, have been previously reported, the exact language from the bond offering, including incentives, has never before been public.

Here's the full text:

“Mr. Zucker currently receives an annual base salary of $6.3 million. His annual base salary is reviewed for increases based on his performance on the same basis and intervals as the salaries of senior officers at GE.

“For each fiscal year for the term of the agreement, Mr. Zucker will receive a guaranteed annual cash bonus of no less that $1.5 million for good performance.

“In addition for each fiscal year completed during the term of the agreement he will be eligible to earn an additional performance bonus of $2 million to $4.5 million based on operating profit.

“Mr Zucker participates in GE’s contingent long-term performance plan and is eligible to receive a maximum bonus award under that plan equal to 200 percent of his annual base salary at the time of the award payment. If the joint venture plan closes, he will be generally be entitled to receive a pro-rated portion of his long-term performance award under this plan or the 2010-2012 period.”

EARLIER:

A new report that NBC Universal chief Jeff Zucker has concluded an exit deal with General Electric is not true, but that’s almost beside the point.

For the record: both NBC Universal and General Electric are calling the report of a $30 million exit package false. “There is no exit package,” said Allison Gollust, a spokeswoman for NBCU. “The report is completely false.”

Here’s why: if Zucker actually had an “exit package” – a negotiated settlement for him to leave the company – it would be for a lot more money than $30 million, which just represents the size of his new contract, renewed last year through 2013.

Zucker's contract has not previously been public knowledge, but a bond offering by NBCU in late April required the filing of documents that finally revealed his deal. Even those documents are not public, however.

Zucker will get $30 million if he stays in the job, or if he leaves the job. That’s not an exit package, which would typically include perks like a production deal, use of the company jet and free cable service for life. (If Zucker told friends that he had an exit deal for $30 million, as the New York Post said, he was most likely referring to his contract.)

But that doesn’t mean Zucker is safe, far from it. And he knows it. The top dog at the lowest-rated network has failed over a long period of time to lead NBC Universal to growth. And his spectacular bungling of the Leno-Conan situation pulverized whatever margin for maneuver he might have had.

Comcast, the owners-to-be of the movie and television company, are not dumb.

For months, there have been noises emanating from both sides of the equation that Comcast was talking to potential candidates and canvassing opinion within Hollywood as to who might be the best executive talent out there. Anyone can read between those lines: they’re looking for the right replacement for Zucker.

But for the moment, no decision has been made or executed, which is what I hear both on the record and off.  And Zucker has not counted himself out. He’s a fighter, and has been keeping himself publicly visible, with the tacit message that he will not bow out quietly.

As one insider told me: “He knows he’s out. Everybody knows he’s out. But he is still fighting for it.”

Zucker is a fighter if there ever was one. But Comcast doesn’t have to do much more than wait. Things will advance to their logical conclusion. And in the meantime, Zucker – is a lame duck.