Former Grammy CEO Neil Portnow Got 41% Pay Raise Before Exit – to $2.6 Million

Portnow got a huge bump in the year before he exited; his female replacement says she was paid “substantially less”

Last Updated: February 3, 2020 @ 11:00 AM

Former Recording Academy CEO Neil Portnow saw his compensation jump 41% — nearly $800,000 — in the year before he stepped down from overseeing the Grammys organization after widely criticized comments about female musicians, according to documents obtained by TheWrap.

UPDATE: Portnow’s salary was more than $1 million more than his successor, Deborah Dugan, could have earned in her first year on the job, an individual who has seen her contract told TheWrap. The source added that 40% of Dugan’s potential total salary would have come from a bonus, an estimated $1.4 million in total.

According to a filing with the Internal Revenue Service, Portnow was paid $1,867,107 in 2016 but then received $2,637,773 in 2017. The 2017 pay was broken down as $2,506,823 in base compensation and another $128,950 in “other compensation for the organization and related organizations.”

Neil Portnow 990

The Recording Academy’s Form 990

The information is part of the Recording Academy’s form 990, which a tax-exempt organization is required to file publicly. Portnow started in the role in 2002 and earned $789,638 in 2003. In May 2018, just four months after he came under fire for suggesting women need to “step up” to be recognized at the Grammy Awards, Portnow announced he would step down when his contract expired in July 2019.

Deborah Dugan, who succeeded Portnow in the role last summer but was ousted last month after just seven months, said in an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint she “was paid substantially less than her two male predecessors.” In 2017, Dugan was paid $537,000 as CEO of Bono’s (RED) charity organization.

Dugan’s attorney, Michael Willemin tells TheWrap, “This absolutely corroborates everything in the complain, not only the allegation of discriminatory pay but the fact the Academy was a boys club.”

According to the L.A. Times, Michael Greene, who headed the Recording Academy from 1988 to 2002, earned $1.5 million in total compensation in 1998, including a bonus of $707,810. At the time, Stacy Palmer, editor of the Chronicle of Philanthropy, told the Times, “As far as I know, a bonus of this size is unprecedented in the nonprofit world.”

By comparison, Dawn Hudson, who has served as CEO of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences since 2011, earned a total of $917,949 in 2017 (which included $236,246 deemed as “retirement and other deferred compensation”). Maury McIntyre, president and COO of the Television Academy, made $512,232 during the same year.

Reps for the Recording Academy have not responded to multiple requests for comment.

Dugan was placed on administrative leave by the Academy’s executive committee last month and then filed an EEOC complaint that accused the Academy of corruption in Grammy voting and alleged that Academy’s general counsel, Joel Katz, sexually harassed her (Katz denied those claims) and that Portnow had been accused of raping a female recording artist following a performance at Carnegie Hall (Portnow called the accusations “ludicrous and untrue” and said an independent investigation had exonerated him).

In response to her complaint, the Recording Academy said that Dugan “was placed on administrative leave only after offering to step down and demanding $22 million from the Academy, which is a not-for-profit organization.” Dugan’s lawyers responded by saying, “On the morning of the day she was put on leave, the Academy offered Ms. Dugan millions of dollars to drop all of this and leave the Academy. The Board Chair demanded an answer within the hour. When Ms. Dugan refused to accept and walk away, she was put on leave.”

Sharon Waxman contributed to this report.

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