Fehr receives $11 million package
PHILADELPHIA -- When Donald Fehr officially steps down as the head of the Major League Baseball Players Association, he will leave with an $11 million compensation package, according to a memo sent out to players late last month and seen by ESPN.com.
Fehr, who has been the executive director of the players association since 1983, announced on June 22 that he would step down. On Oct. 2, it was announced that the union's lead general counsel, Michael Weiner was voted by the membership to succeed Fehr.
Along with the $11 million severance package, Fehr, 61, will also receive continued access to the union's files and keep an office, according to the memo dated Sept. 21, 2009. Multiple sources confirmed the amount of the package.
"Obviously, I'm pleased and grateful for the vote they made," Fehr said Tuesday.
According to U.S. Department of Labor records, Fehr's annual gross salary from 2001-2008 was $1 million a year. Sources said Fehr's salary has been stagnant since before that as well.
Overtures were made in the past to Fehr to increase his salary. He declined. But the framework was in place from those offers to determine a fair package for Fehr when he decided to step down.
The process took several months, including deliberations by two different union committees before it went to the full membership for a vote. Curtis Granderson, a member of the union's subcommittee, said that when players compared Fehr's salary with the union heads of other major sports and MLB commissioner Bud Selig (who reportedly makes $18 million per year), it was an easy decision to make.
"I think without a doubt there was no hesitation," Granderson said. "We kept looking at how much Bud Selig makes and we looked at how much Don Fehr hasn't made."
Granderson said some players balked at first, but he estimated that 97 percent of the membership approved the deal.
"At first there was a little 'Why so is it so much?' " Granderson said. "But as soon as everyone found out he hadn't had a raise and then the comparison in salary to Bud Selig's, I think the overwhelming majority voted in favor of it."
By comparison, NBA Players Association director Billy Hunter has seen his gross salary rise from $1,282,475 million in 2000 to $3,465,933 in 2009, according to Department of Labor records. The late Gene Upshaw, the former head of the NFL's union, saw his salary jump from $900,000 in 2000 to $3,774,577 in 2008.
"We wanted to reward him for everything he's done to establish the player's association to where it is," Granderson said.
"I actually think he should have gotten more," one player said.
"I think what the players did was perfectly appropriate and I support it," Weiner said. "The player leadership gave a lot of thought to all the circumstances here and every member of the union had an opportunity to weigh in on this and there was tremendous support for it."
It is unclear when Fehr will stop working for the union. It was announced that his tenure would conclude no later than the end of March 2010, but in reality it could happen earlier. That doesn't mean Fehr will cut all ties. When former executive director Marvin Miller stepped down and Fehr took over in December 1983, Miller acted as an unofficial confidant and advisor to Fehr.
The situation now is different, of course. Fehr was just 35 years old at the time and had only been at the union for six years when he assumed his title. Weiner, the general counsel, is 47 and has been at the union for 21 years.
"To the extent that Mike wants to do that with me, the phone will ring and I'll answer it and I'll be glad to talk to him," Fehr said.
The transition has already begun. Weiner is still determining how he will shape his staff. He said he will continue an already excellent relationship with Fehr as the process moves ahead.
"I've had a great relationship and I've learned a tremendous amount from Don," Weiner said. "Anyone who becomes executive director would be crazy not to take advantage of Don's knowledge, his wisdom and his experience."
Fehr said he's still contemplating what he will do next. A former board member of the United States Olympic Committee, Fehr was asked if he has any interest in rejoining the organization at some point.
"I was heavily involved for eight years and I have no expectation of becoming formally involved with the Olympics or taking any position there," said Fehr, who has not had any contact with anyone at the USOC or been approached about a position. "I'm obviously interested in it; I follow with what goes on in the newspapers but there are other people involved now."
So he will instead finish his tenure, and then take some time off.
"I have always had and I expect always to have an enormous respect and affinity for this organization and its members," Fehr said. "And if there's something that I can do that will be of help or of benefit to them, I'm pretty sure if I'm capable of doing it, I'll be willing to do it. But it can't be my call and it won't be.
"You can only have one person running an organization. Michael has the complete confidence of membership. He's been around a long time and he knows what he's doing."
Amy K. Nelson is a staff writer for ESPN.com and ESPNBoston.com. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or at twitter.com/amyknelson.