Clear Channel pays exec to ride his own jet…

November 22, 2011

A few weeks ago, we footnoted the generous pay package that Robert “Bob” Pittman snagged by taking the chief executive’s job at CC Media Holdings (CCMO), the parent company of the Clear Channel broadcasting and advertising businesses. Pittman had been a muckety at the company formerly known as AOL Time Warner, and his new employer promised (among other perks) to “make an aircraft (which, to the extent available, will be a Dassault-Breguet Mystere Falcon 900) available to Mr. Pittman for his business and personal use,” at company expense.

Well, Clear Channel filed another 8-K just after 4:30 p.m. Friday (toward the early end of the weekly Friday night dump) that suggests the deal is even sweeter than it first seemed. It looks like Pittman isn’t just getting free jet rides — he’s getting paid $3 million for the privilege of riding around in his own fancy jet.

See, it turns out that Pittman, as busy as he undoubtedly is, has enough time to run an aircraft leasing operation. A major customer (perhaps its only customer?) is Clear Channel Broadcasting, a wholly owned unit of Clear Channel Media Holdings. Given the terms laid out in the filing, of course, this aircraft-leasing business doesn’t seem too demanding: Clear Channel has agreed to pay $3 million up front, will “obtain insurance policies covering all operations of the Aircraft at CCB’s sole cost and expense,” and on top of that, is taking on

“all taxes or fees which may be assessed or levied as a result of the leasing or operation of the Aircraft … CCB will be responsible for all costs of operating and maintaining the Aircraft during the Term (as defined below), other than discretionary upgrades, capital improvements or refurbishment. CCMH intends to make the Aircraft available to Mr. Pittman for his business and personal use pursuant to the terms of his previously disclosed employment agreement with CCMH.”

And there you go: The company promised to let him tool around in a corporate jet for both business and personal travel. And it will be his own fancy jet. And the company will pay him $3 million to lease the jet from him. So that he can fly around in it. (Got that?)

Clearly Pittman has an eye for irony, in addition to fine corporate aircraft and convoluted related-party transactions, because he dubbed his leasing company Yet Again Inc. We’re all for serial entrepreneurship, and we like cute names as much as the next person. But at a certain point, isn’t it just rubbing it in?

In a generous gesture, incidentally, Pittman has graciously agreed to return some of that $3 million if the arrangement should be canceled before its six-year term expires.

You can see the FAA record of Pittman’s plane, and more (including a photo of the jet itself) from www.airport-data.com. Of course, the WSJ Jet Tracker lists where it’s been, and how often, from 2007 through last year — we see nearly two-dozen trips to Telluride, and of course a bunch of pleasant, stylish and/or sunny locales, including Paris (seven times), Montego Bay in Jamaica (21 times), Las Vegas (13 times), and even a lone trip to the Netherlands Antilles (from Jamaica, in fact).

We should also note that, after we spotted the filing on Friday, we discovered that a couple of folks had also noticed the document. A tip of the hat to Radio-Info.com, which credited the TRI newsletter in a post yesterday.

When Pittman talked to DealBook last month, he observed that he had been able to take the chairman’s job for a while before accepting the CEO position, and said: “This is one of those companies where the closer you looked, the better it seemed.

From his perspective, anyway, there’s no arguing that point.

Image source: Dassault Falcon website

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