Although a multimillion-dollar pension fund is being set aside for Utah's top Olympic officials, organizers of the 1996 Summer Games in Atlanta aren't collecting any retirement benefits - just two months' severance pay.
"People know what they're getting into. . . . They ought not to be coming to work for the Olympics for the retirement plan," said Richard Stogner, deputy chief financial officer for the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games.Trustees for the Salt Lake Organizing Committee, however, decided this week to give their top three employees annual pensions for working through the 2002 Winter Games.
"They would have done far better in the corporate world than they've done here," said Arlen Crouch, head of the trustees compensation committee, which came up with the pension plan.
Under the terms of the plan, SLOC President Tom Welch will receive more than $100,000 a year for the rest of his life; Vice President Dave Johnson, more than $62,500; and Vice President Gordon Crabtree, about $27,000.
They'll start collecting those checks within two years after the Games are over. The amount is based on the highest salary each earns, multiplied by the number of years each will have been involved in the Olympic effort.
Crouch, who recently retired as the head of Franklin Quest, said Welch worked without pay for more than a decade to bring the Olympics to Utah and has no other retirement benefits coming.
"We think he deserves that," Crouch said. "We're comfortable with it."
Johnson, who was paid during the city's Olympic bids, also does not have any other retirement, Crouch said. Crabtree, a former state finance director, is eligible for state retirement benefits.
Like Welch, both deserve compensation for the stock options and other benefits they could be getting somewhere else, Crouch said. "That's one of the things we have to be very careful of," he said.
Trustees believe they need to keep the trio satisfied so that they don't leave for more lucrative jobs. "These three gentlemen are the key," Crouch said.
Stogner said Atlanta organizers considered offering retirement benefits but ultimately rejected the idea. "The theory was that you knew this was not a long-term job when you took it," he said Thursday. He said the Atlanta organizing committee did pay above the market rate to help make up for the fact that a career as an Olympic organizer is short-lived.
For example, Welch's counterpart in Atlanta, Billy Payne, reportedly earned some $700,000. Welch, who like Payne is a lawyer, is earning less than half that amount.
Atlanta organizers did come up with a plan to give each of the 1,000-plus employees on the payroll as of Dec. 31, 1995, two weeks severance pay for every year worked, up to four years.
No one, not even Payne when he left to take an executive position with a bank, got more than eight weeks' salary under the plan. And although bonuses for Atlanta leaders were talked about, Stogner said none has been given.
That could change depending on how much money is left after all the bills from the 1996 Summer Games have been paid. Atlanta organizers have estimated they'd end up with $10 million or so from their $1.7 billion budget.
It's going to cost about $1 billion to put on the 2002 Winter Games, a budget that Crouch said already includes the estimated $3 million cost of the pension plan. Most of budget is coming from private sources.
He said the pension plan will be funded annually, so that if the organizing committee's finances take a turn for the worse the contribution could be reduced or cut altogether.
"I don't think that will happen, but we left it open," Crouch said. "I think we've done the best we can."