The media fawned over CEO Dan Price’s decision to forgo his million dollar salary and pay all his employees $70,000 per year, but as with most things leftist progressives get excited about, it’s all a little bit too good to be true. Bloomberg has an exhaustive piece about how Price’s story just doesn’t quite line up. His company’s finances are a mess and his wife has recently gone public with a harrowing tale of how he repeatedly beat her and “waterboarded” her in their bathtub.
In February 2012, he and Lewellyn divorced, “amicably,” the New York Times and Inc. wrote. Price’s own pay grew rapidly. In 2011 he was making “probably $50,000 a year,” he said at the Aspen Ideas Festival this summer. In 2012 his compensation jumped to $1 million, he says. That August, records show, he paid cash for a $900,000 house with a pool—a rarity in Seattle.
In 2013, Price says, Gravity hired compensation consultant Towers Watson to look at his salary. “The Towers Watson recommendation allowed for significant raises over the $1.1 million, but I elected to not raise my pay,” he says. Hollon, Lucas’s attorney, says Price is “mischaracterizing” the findings.
At private companies with sales like Gravity’s total revenue, salary and bonus for the top quartile of CEOs is $710,000, according to Chief Executive magazine’s annual compensation survey. At companies with sales like Gravity’s net revenue, the top quartile pay falls to about $373,000. At companies with a similar number of employees as Gravity, the top quartile of CEOs makes $470,000 in salary and bonus. The CEO of JetPay, a publicly traded competitor that processes a similar volume as Gravity, received $355,000 in 2014.
After meeting Price and researching the figures, I called to ask if he thought his $1.1 million pay was fair, given those benchmarks. He replied: “I appreciate you asking the question. I’m happy to answer any other questions you might have. I’m way over time, and there’s a bunch of people waiting for me.” When we spoke later, he said, “I have never given myself a raise without unanimous, full board approval. … That means we both voted the same way. Lucas Price and Daniel Price, the two board members.” Hollon says that’s “inaccurate” and that Price “paid himself excessive compensation for a number of years … over Lucas’s objections.”[…]
Price’s life may get more complicated the week of Dec. 7, when TEDx plans to post online a public talk by his former wife, who changed her last name to Colón. She spoke on Oct. 28 at the University of Kentucky about the power of writing to overcome trauma. Colón stood on stage wearing cerulean blue and, without naming Price, read from a journal entry she says she wrote in May 2006 about her then-husband. “He got mad at me for ignoring him and grabbed me and shook me again,” she read. “He also threw me to the ground and got on top of me. He started punching me in the stomach and slapped me across the face. I was shaking so bad.” Later in the talk, Colón recalled once locking herself in a car, “afraid he was going to body-slam me into the ground again or waterboard me in our upstairs bathroom like he had done before.”
I read those quotes to Price. “I’m just going to take a second because this is very surprising to me,” he said. He paused. “I appreciate and respect my former wife, and she played a very positive role in my life,” he said. “Out of respect for her, I wouldn’t feel comfortable responding to a supposed allegation she may have said coming from a Bloomberg Businessweek reporter when I have absolutely zero evidence of an allegation being made.” I told him that I wanted to be clear: I was giving him the chance to deny the claims. “My comment is very responsive,” he said. “I would be more than happy to provide a comment if and when I actually get the benefit of seeing what you are referencing.”
About three hours later, Price called back. “There’s one more thing that I would like to add to my previous statement,” he said. “The events that you described never happened.”
Maybe it’s just me, but if somebody accused me of savagely beating my wife, it wouldn’t take me three hours to deny that it happened. Then again, because I don’t beat my wife and never will, I don’t have to worry about the legal ramifications of lying about it.
On top of all the marital drama, Dan Price’s brother Lucas (who is a board member and shareholder in Gravity) is suing Dan for misusing the company’s money in his own personal crusade against CEO salaries.