Tax Docs: USSA Chief Got Five Percent Pay Cut in 2010

Chelsea LittleJune 2, 20115

United States Ski Association (USSA) Chief Executive Officer Bill Marolt took a five percent cut in base compensation and benefits in the 2010 fiscal year, according to federal tax forms recently released by the Internal Revenue Service.

In both 2010 and 2009, Marolt received a $250,000 bonus from USSA and its affiliate organizations. In the last fiscal year, however–which ended April 30, 2010–his base pay decreased from $309,947 to $269,258, while his benefits and nontaxable compensation increased from $92,000 to $98,553.

A spokesperson told FasterSkier that Marolt declined to comment on his salary, and he did not respond to an email.

But in an interview, USSA Board Chairman Dexter Paine, a former alpine racer who now heads his own $2.7 billion private equity firm, said that the decrease was a reflection of across-the-board salary cuts instituted by the organization in January, 2009, at the peak of the financial crisis.

Those cuts have since been eliminated, according to Paine. “We actually returned everyone [in 2011] back to the level that they had prior to the pay cuts,” he said.

But in the mean time, Marolt was buffered from the reductions by his $250,000 bonuses. Marolt also receives non-monetary benefits, like the use of two Audi cars, and the tax forms show that USSA executives are offered first-class or charter travel for themselves and a companion.

As is the case every year, it was the USSA board that made the decision on how much to pay Marolt.

“We have a board,” Paine explained. “That board is made up of approximately 20 people, approximately a third athletes, a third people from the industry, and a third outside board members. We [also] have a compensation committee. That compensation committee sets goals and objectives for Bill.”

If Marolt meets the objectives, then he is rewarded with a sizeable bonus. For the 2010 fiscal year, the goals were to run a budget surplus, and to achieve particular performances at the Olympic Games. Since Marolt accomplished both – thanks in part to the success of the American nordic combined team – he was awarded the $250,000.

Acording to Paine, USSA settled on that figure, as well as the base salary, using a study that examines the compensation for leaders of other organizations, including CEOs in private industry, athletic directors, and college coaches.

“That’s what Bill did before he came to us, so we think that’s a quite comparable data point,” Paine said. “We look at compensation for heads of other national governing bodies.”

Documents from the IRS show that Marolt’s total compensation is higher than that of any other CEO for a winter Olympic sport organization, including that of Dave Ogrean, the executive director of USA Hockey. USA Hockey had 585,000 members to USSA’s 30,000, and collected $33.8 million in revenues in 2010 compared to USSA’s  $19.7 million, while Ogrean received approximately $335,000 for his work.

As for athletic directors, the best-payed can make in the $1 million range. But salaries fall sharply away from the football- and basketball-centric conferences like the Southeastern Conference, Atlantic Coast Conference, Big 12, and Big 10.

The University of Utah, for example, has an athletic budget of over 26 million dollars, and employs roughly 160 staff members (USSA employs 200). Despite the big budget, athletic director Chris Hill had a salary of only $314,768 in 2009; the big bucks were reserved for the football coach, who was paid over a million dollars.

Paine, however, stood by Marolt’s figure.

“[Marolt] is well compensated—certainly not the highest-compensated national governing body member out there—but in terms of performance, I’d argue that he’s the best-performing CEO of any NGB,” Paine said, citing Marolt’s success as a fundraiser for the U.S. Ski Team.

“For another example, the head of USA Tennis…made a million three last year. The temporary head of the USOC [U.S. Olympic Committee], Stephanie Streeter, made over a million dollars. Quite frankly, we think that the group I just talked about is a relevant group, in terms of comparisons,” Paine said.

USSA pays four other employees over $100,000. They are led by Chief Financial Officer Mark Lampe, who receives $112,077 from USSA and $131,596 from related organizations. Others include Vice President of Events Calum Clarke, Controller Chris Sampson, and Vice President of Marketing Edward Morris.

The Big Picture: Programs

While Marolt’s compensation decreased slightly, USSA’s overall financial standing appears to have been steadily improving over the last few years. In the 2010 fiscal year, revenues increased from $18,484,671 to $19,766,542, according to tax documents.

“I think that we started to see revenues come back,” Paine told FasterSkier. “This year, revenues were up, and they are budgeted to be up slightly again next year, but sports marketing dollars remain very tight. I think it’s the last piece that comes back…There have been slight increases, so we’ve been able to increase our athletic spending.”

In 2010, domestic athletic support decreased from just over $4 million to $3.75 million, while grants to the ski and snowboard national teams dipped to $6.2 million from the previous year’s $6.9 million. However, on the whole, program spending increased by some $400,000.

One reason that was possible in 2010 was the Vancouver Olympics.

“The money that we got from the USOC was up slightly last year, because it was an Olympic year,” Paine explained. “But those moneys remain essentially flat.”

In the future, though, the USOC money will be stretched even more thinly. At least three new ski and snowboard events have been added for the Sochi Olympics: women’s ski jumping, and men’s and women’s ski halfpipe have been approved, while men’s and women’s slopestyle was tabled at the spring meeting of the International Olympic Committee, but could be reconsidered again before 2014.

“We get new sports and no new money, which means that you end up spreading dollars over more athletes, and it’s just a real challenge,” Paine said. “Every year, we have to figure out where we are going to allocate dollars among all the different programs.”

Aside from USOC money, USSA generated $3.4 million in revenue from memberships and fees, and as well as some $961,000 from event registration. Sponsorships brought in over $7.4 million–but in its annual report, USSA showed that it spent more than 20 percent of its budget on sponsor and donor fulfillment.

“It’s certainly a challenging environment, from a revenue perspective,” Paine said. “We continue to work very hard to expand our sales marketing base, and expanding our foundation, which is where we raise money from donors. But certainly, the environment is still challenging out there.”

Goals for the Future

In order to continue receiving his large bonuses, Marolt will have to keep meeting USSA’s objectives.

The main thing, Paine said, is to keep raising money.

“Our goal is to continue to generate more revenues,” he told FasterSkier.

Specifically, USSA is focusing on fundraising for two major projects. The first is an early-season training site at Copper Mountain in Colorado, which will serve the alpine, freestyle, and snowboard teams.

“We are close to putting that deal together. By November 1, we’ll have an automated snow system, and all the necessary safety, communications and timing equipment to have a world-class downhill speed center like no other around,” Marolt told Ski Racing Magazine at the 2011 USSA Congress. “What we will have will be a game changer, to have an opportunity to be on world-class snow by the first of November until the middle of December for the elite programs, and then after that, it will be totally for the development programs.”

The second focus, which is more relevant to the nordic program, is a continuing commitment to education.

“One of the areas that Bill has really focused on is getting athletes access to education while they’re competing, through a program we have at Westminster, as well as other universities,” Paine told FasterSkier.

Several of the nordic athletes are taking classes at Westminster College in Salt Lake City, which provides full tuition to U.S. Ski Team athletes, and Torin Koos is taking advantage of a similar deal with the University of Utah.

USSA also offers a tuition reimbursement program for athletes attending other schools. For language learning, specifically, athletes have free access to Rosetta Stone online courses, and USSA pays for interested skiers to attend ten-day intensive language classes with Dartmouth College’s Rassias Program in Hanover, NH.

“We now have 68 athletes who are going to school at the same time that they’re competing, which is a dramatic increase over when Bill [arrived],” Paine said.

“And we want to increase that even more, so our next step is going to be to raise endowment money to be used for education… The stronger the alumni base of our organization, the stronger our organization will be, going forward. To the extent that we can do more for our athletes, regardless of what sport they’re in, the better job we do serving them.”

While the combination of education and collegiate skiing has been a hot topic in the nordic community over the last few years, Paine was clear that as far as he’s concerned, there’s no reason to eschew school, and he added that USSA is dedicated to making education possible for its skiers.

“It keeps athletes from being forced to make that decision of: ‘Do I go to school, or do I compete?’” he said. “I grew up ski racing, and I wasn’t good enough to have to make that decision, but I made the decision to go to school, and certainly knew lots of athletes who were in a difficult position, trying to figure out, ‘geeze, what do I do?’”

Nathaniel Herz contributed reporting.

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Chelsea Little

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  • teamepokeedsbyn

    June 2, 2011 at 5:19 pm

    This is, again, disgusting. The financial-Aspen elite world that Mr. Marolt, his family and associates, and Mr. Paine, dwell in is focused on developing alpine skiing, and could give a shit about x-c ski racers. I am so glad Bill will retire a weathy man – he deserves it, as he had done so much to promote the Nordic sports in this country.

    As the NGB, is the charter of USSA to promote the sport of (x-c) skiing and grow its membership at the grassroots level, or simply field a WC team? They have done little to give money to discover and nuture new skiers/members – just “same old same old”.

    Sorry Mr. Paine, but when compared to compensation of other heads of NGB, using a simple, and fair, formula of salary/benefits compared to NGB revenue, Mr. Marotl’s compensation is way out of line and obnoxious. Rumor has it you have a personal friendship with Mr. Marolt, so, like most of the Board, your comments are clearly bias.

    US x-c skiing really has no reason to be tied to, and sucking the tit of, USSA, Mr. Marolt, and the world of investment bankers with second homes at alpine resorts, with no interst in
    x-c skiing/nordic combined/jumping. The regional clubs/associations have done all the work, and receive little money. As has been the case for 20 years, it is time for the Nordic sports to fund, and support, their own sports that they care about.

  • D. Diehl

    June 2, 2011 at 5:55 pm

    Do you actually think any of the 5 percent will make it’s way to helping small nordic ski clubs across America bring in talent. Take the whole bloated elitest crew at the USSA and dump them in a Aspen hot tub.

  • Ellen

    June 2, 2011 at 8:47 pm

    As a former (college) team-mate of Dexter Paine and casual friend of his extended family I have to add a comment here. I am not a part of the Aspen-elite, and I assure you that his roots are firmly in N.H. His parents were heavily involved in grass-roots alpine racing, he and his siblings (and some of his in-laws) were alpine ski racers in high school and college; and the next generation includes competitive skiers, including at least one Nordic competitor.

    I don’t think Dexter needs my help – he’s done pretty well for himself, but I think the Nordic community should know that while the chairman of our national governing body is a very successful businessman, he grew up Alpine racing in local, regional and college circuits that have more in common with Nordic racing than not.

    Do I think that Mr. Marolt may be on the high end of the pay scale for the job at hand? Maybe; but it doesn’t seem to be egregious, and the board appears to be willing to make adjustments to reflect existing financial realities.

    Would I like to see Nordic skiing get a bigger piece of the pie? You bet. Does Dexter Paine worry about the same personal financial issues that plague (or at least nag) most of us from time-to-time? Probably not. But I guarantee that he does understand the challenges that the coaches, athletes, parents and club organizers face; and he appreciates the entire spectrum of skiing.


    June 3, 2011 at 12:58 pm

    it would be interesting to know if the nordic programs are “subsidized” by the alpine programs, or vice versa.

    Looks like in 2010 the “Athlete support” was cut by the same amount as Bill’s bonus? I don’t like 5% of our donations to go to first class tickets, Audis, and a top 1% earner. Don’t call me for a donation, USSA. My cash is staying local.

  • teamepokeedsbyn

    June 20, 2011 at 9:57 pm

    ellen, I think you miss the point – Nordic sports have become the bum-brother of Alpine sports in the U.S., not capable of earning any income, and depending upon handouts from Alpine. Nordic sports should recive no slice of the pie, and does not need one. in all other relavent NGB systems, nordic sports are seperate from alpine. mr. Paine, and Mr. Marolt, all have their roots in Alpine – that is where they exceed. Is the x-c ski world so lame and stupid and poor they cannot support their own?

    The issuse proposed by this article is the pay of Mr. Marolt is extreme, based upon the services he provides (the U.S. Nordic Sports). In my opion, he is highly overpaid, and I challenge anyone to justify his pay against any other similar oraganization. His pay is set by the Board, many who, like Mr. Paine, are his personal friends.

    The ONLY objective way to compare USSA CEO compensation to any similar CEO pay is as a percent of comapany income i.e how much an non-profit raises via dues and sponsorship by CEO pay.

    As this article notes, as compared to USA Hockey, for example, Mr. Marolt is being paid and obnoxious sum. Wanna use US Golf? Us Tennis? USA Swimming? USA Soccer? mr. marolt, and the Board look real bad! When compared to money raised (income) against CEO pay, USSA is at the extreme raito in Mr. Marolts favor.

    The question is would our Nordic “stars”, Freeman, Randall, Newall, exist/ski/or continue without mr. Marolts keen guidance, fund raising, and sport coaching? yes, i think. did mr. marolt go to bat for the women’s jumping team? no. Why is Nordic sports so lame in the U.S. they cannot take care of their own?

    Most important, we need an NGB who sticks to their mandate of making promoting, and GROWING the sport the prioity, and funding a WC team second. The WC Oly. team thing will take care of itself via free market as you discover amazing, and diverse athletes via PROMOTION. The NGB main goal is to promote and grow the sport, not fund a world cup team. Look at USA Cycling/Tennis/Golf and you will see what an NGB is supposed to do for their sport.

    Just my 2 scheckles

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