Lee Enterprises execs get pay boosts despite steep earnings decline, forced furloughs in 2022

Amid a steep fall-off in earnings, forced unpaid furloughs across its 77 news properties, significant staff cuts and a continued stock price decline, top Lee Enterprise, Inc. executives received increased compensation packages from 7 to 62 percent during 2022.

The executive compensation detailed in the company's proxy to shareholders, shows President and CEO Kenneth Mowbray's total compensation went up 7.2 percent to $2.33 million. Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Timothy Millage had his compensation upped 33 percent to $1.05 million. Operating Vice President and Vice President - Audience Strategy Nathan E. Bekke's compensation package increase 62 percent to $1.12 million.

And, past CEO Mary E. Junck, who serves as executive chair of the board of directors, received a $30,000 hike in her compensation to $430,000 ($250,000 in fees paid in cash and $180,000 in stock awards).

For the company's fiscal year ended Sept. 25, 2022, Lee lost 35 cents per share compared with a gain of $3.98 per share for the previous fiscal year.

Top executives compensation chart from Lee's proxy statement to shareholders.

For the company's first quarter ended Dec. 25, 2022, Lee reported net income of $1.8 million, or 19 cents per share. That compares with a $2.21 per share gain for the same quarter a year ago.

Lee is publisher of the Quad City Times and Daily Dispatch/Argus and some 75 other newspapers and online news sites including the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, The Buffalo News and the Omaha World-Herald. It is headquartered in Davenport.

The company was nearly three months late in filing its annual financial report with the U.S. Security and Exchange Commission and has pushed back its annual meeting of shareholders from the usual February date to April 18.

Last year, the company fought off an effort by a large hedge fund to replace three members of the board, including Junck.

To date, the only proxy material filed with the SEC is from the company.

In February, Axios reported Lee informed staffers at several news sites they must take a two-week unpaid furlough or accept a salary reduction.

And, in May of last year, Axios reported that Lee planned a 10 percent reduction in overall staff.

Lee's stock price has been on a downward slide since early 2022. On March 31, 2022, Lee stock was at $26.92 a share. The stock closed Thursday (March 30) at $12.32 a share.

CLICK HERE to download Lee's fiscal 2022 financial report.

CLICK HERE to download Lee's first quarter 2023 financial report.

CLICK HERE to download Lee's proxy materials sent to shareholders.

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