How Much Do Professional Sports Commissioners Make?

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During tonight’s NBA draft, commissioner David Stern has been shaking hands with the league’s newest crop of rookies, welcoming them into a life of luxury and a potential lockout. If there is a work stoppage, Stern will manage just fine financially. Here’s the scoop on what he and the other major pro sports commissioners earn annually.

David Stern (NBA)

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The NBA doesn’t claim tax-exempt status, so Stern’s salary, which is paid collectively by the league’s owners, isn’t public information. Most reports speculate that he makes around $10 million a year, though the New York Daily News cited anonymous “league spies” who revealed that Stern made a whopping $23 million in 2010. In 1990, Stern’s reported salary of $3.5 million was more than the salaries of the commissioners in the other three major professional sports combined. Stern didn’t take a salary during the NBA’s 1999 lockout and he has said he will do the same if the players are locked out when the league’s collective bargaining agreement expires on June 30.

Bud Selig (MLB)

In 2009, ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt said he choked on his vomit when he heard how much the MLB commissioner made.

Van Pelt would later apologize, though Selig had a few million reasons not to be offended. The Sports Business Daily reported that Selig made $18.35 million in 2007, including a $17.5 million base salary, which is the highest salary among the major pro sports commissioners (assuming Stern makes closer to $10 million than $23 million). Selig’s current salary is reportedly just shy of $19 million. In fairness, that’s about the same amount that Giants pitcher Barry Zito will make this year.

Roger Goodell (NFL)

The NFL commissioner cut his salary to $1 at the start of the league’s work stoppage, but you shouldn’t feel too badly for him. Citing the NFL’s tax return, the Sports Business Journal reported in January that Goodell earned $9.89 million in 2010. Interestingly, that made him only the third-highest paid NFL executive. NFL Network head Steve Bornstein and former commissioner Paul Tagliabue earned $12.65 million and $12.51 million, respectively. The majority of Tagliabue’s income was from retirement and deferred pay.

Gary Bettman (NHL)

According to the Sports Business Journal, the NHL commissioner made $7.2 million during the 2008-09 season, which was an increase of 1.7% from the previous year and up from the $5.9 million he earned in 2005-06. Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin, who both earned roughly $9 million last season, are among the 20 or so players who earn at least as much as Bettman.

A Couple of Other Commissioners

• MLS Commissioner Don Garber agreed to a contract extension through 2014 that is believed to pay him about $3 million per year.

• PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem earns roughly $5 million annually with the majority of that total coming in the form of performance bonuses.

June 23, 2011 - 4:33pm
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