For KSL's Top Managers, Pay And Benefits Were Lavish To The End
In its recent bankruptcy filing, KSL Media paints a picture of its financial health as being “seriously undermined in recent years” by the alleged fraudulent schemes of former controller Geoffrey Charness. But that didn’t prevent the media shop’s top managers from collecting lucrative paychecks, bonuses and generous benefits until the company closed its doors last month after 32 years in business.
For the final year that the company was in business, KSL founder Kal Lebowitz received nearly $1.1 million in payments from the company, including a twice-monthly salary of $22,750. That’s according to a “Statement of Financial Affairs,” that KSL filed in connection with its bankruptcy proceeding last week.
According to the document, Former CEO Hank Cohen, who along with Liebowitz is listed as a “partial owner” of the company, received total payments of more than $922,000, including a salary of $24,750.
Former president David Sklaver received total payments of more than $690,000 including a bi-monthly paycheck of $23,143.
Former CFO Russell Meisels received just over $280,000 in payments from the company over the past year. In addition to salaries, all four executives received thousands in payments for insurance coverage, including medical, dental, long-term care, life and vision. Cohen left the agency in August, while Sklaver and Meisels departed in September, per the document.
In the filing, various family members of Liebowitz and Cohen were also paid thousands in benefits for items including insurance coverage and cell phone and WiFi costs. Keith Liebowitz, a former account executive at the agency, was paid over $63,000 in the firm’s final year of operation, including a bi-monthly salary of $2,000.
Also listed as an “insider” receiving payments from the firm was subsidiary TV 10’s LLC, which received a little more than $1.8 million to make media purchases over the past year.
According to the financial affairs document, KSL had “gross income” of $209.5 million from all activities from January 2013 through Sept. 11, the day it shuttered operations and filed for bankruptcy protection. In 2012, gross income was listed as $330.3 million and in 2011 the tally was $264.2 million.
The company is still tabulating its unsecured debts but estimates that the total is close to $100 million. As reported earlier, KSL has accused former controller Geoffrey Charness of diverting $145 million of the firm’s money to personal accounts held by him and his wife Jennifer. The Charness’ allegedly stole several million of those funds although KSL said it is still tallying the total amount.
The company sued the Charnesses for fraud and related charges in the civil branch of Los Angeles Superior Court in July. Under California law, they had 30 days to respond to the charges after being served with the complaint and failed to do so, a court clerk confirmed Tuesday. The court clerk also confirmed that the civil case has been stayed pending the outcome of the bankruptcy proceeding. KSL also said it was cooperating with an FBI investigation into the alleged fraud.
The financial affairs document includes a 33-page list of creditors that reads like a Who’s Who of media and other business vendors. The four major network companies are represented along with various cable networks. The document reports the total amount owed to ABC is more than $4 million. ESPN is owed another $4.2 million. ADP is owed $3.5 million, per the filing. Comedy Central has a claim for nearly $1.2 million.
KSL ceased operations the day it filed for bankruptcy protection last month. About 100 staffers were let go, while a few dozen remain at the firm to help it wind down its affairs.