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Postmedia executive awarded retention bonus departing company at end of November

Some of Postmedia's newspapers are displayed in this 2010 file ph

Adrian/The Canadian P

One of five Postmedia executives who were recently awarded retention bonuses each worth hundreds of thousands of dollars is leaving the company at the end of the month.

Jeffrey Haar, executive vice-president, legal counsel and general counsel for Canada's largest newspaper publisher, will depart at the end of November, according to a company memo.

The bonuses were approved by Postmedia's board of directors in connection with the company's recent debt restructuring, announced in July and finalized in early October after successive years of declining revenue had put the company in financial peril. The deal slashed the company's debt and retooled its equity ownership structure. Five top executives were paid extra sums totalling nearly $2.3-million "to ensure that key employees remained with Postmedia both during and after" the restructuring.

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It is unclear whether Mr. Haar will forfeit any of the $300,000 bonus he was awarded as a result of his departure. The payments were to be made in three instalments. Mr. Haar received $100,000 in cash for the first instalment on July 15, documents show – eight days after the company's recapitalization plan was first announced. The remaining instalments are to be paid on Dec. 2 and July 14, "subject to the satisfaction of certain conditions."

Those terms have not been disclosed, and Phyllise Gelfand, a Postmedia spokeswoman, declined to comment "on individual employee matters." On Wednesday, Ms. Gelfand said, "It's not uncommon in transactions like this for a key employee-retention program to be put into place," and that the bonuses were "approved by the board and benchmarked against other similar transactions."

In an e-mail, Mr. Haar also declined to discuss the terms of the bonus. "I am not comfortable talking about my compensation, which is personal information, except to the extent required to be disclosed by law," he said, directing further queries to the company.

Other bonuses awarded under the retention plan include $900,000 to president and chief executive officer Paul Godfrey; $450,000 to chief financial officer Doug Lamb; $425,000 to chief operating officer Andrew MacLeod; and $200,000 to Gordon Fisher, president of the National Post and the Pacific Newspaper Group.

The payments were disclosed in public filings just as Postmedia is undertaking the latest of several rounds of cost-cutting, planning to slash 20 per cent of salary costs as the company's revenue continues to decline.

In the past year alone, Postmedia, which owns the National Post, Vancouver Sun, Edmonton Journal and Montreal Gazette among other papers, has merged competing newsrooms in major cities, cut the equivalent of at least 800 full-time jobs, offered staff buyouts and closed a printing plant in London, Ont.

The five executives were not granted any regular short-term financial incentives because they missed a consolidated operating-profit target of $125-million, recording $82.3-million for the fiscal year, the documents show. But in early November, Postmedia extended Mr. Godfrey's contract a further two years, through the end of 2020.

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News of the bonuses attracted backlash on social media, and on Thursday, a union representing some Postmedia employees as well as staff at other media organizations called for the executives to return the bonuses. "This is an absolute disgrace," Martin O'Hanlon, president of CWA Canada, said in a statement.

Neither Mr. Godfrey nor Rod Phillips, chair of Postmedia's board of directors, was available to comment.

As Mr. Haar prepares to leave the company, Postmedia promoted Gillian Akai, who has served as corporate secretary since 2010, to the role of executive vice-president, general counsel and corporate secretary.

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About the Author
Banking Reporter

James Bradshaw is banking reporter for the Report on Business. He covered media from 2014 to 2016, and higher education from 2010 to 2014. Prior to that, he worked as a cultural reporter for Globe Arts, and has written for both the Toronto section and the editorial page. More

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