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How much of a pay cut did Ryan Tubridy really take after 2020?

The presenter’s pay has been the subject of scrutiny for weeks.

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THE ISSUE OF Ryan Tubridy’s earnings has been in the spotlight for weeks after revelations about previously unknown payments to him by RTÉ.

Controversy around the presenter’s pay culminated in both him and his agent being hauled before two Oireachtas committees yesterday, following appearances from executives at the national broadcaster in recent weeks.

And despite all we’ve heard about barter accounts and oversight of finances at RTÉ in recent weeks, Tubridy’s income from the broadcaster was still a bone of contention for both himself and those questioning him in Leinster House.

In his opening statement, Tubridy alluded to having taken a 20% pay cut over the course of his current contract – a claim which was repeatedly challenged by politicians on the Public Accounts Committee this morning.

Labour TD Alan Kelly was among the strongest critics of the former Late Late Show host’s assertion, claiming that it was not accurate “in real terms” and that it had zero credibility.

So how much of a pay cut did Tubridy really take?

What has Tubridy said about his pay?

Perhaps as a result of reports that he had received €345,000 more than the public knew about before the controversy, Tubridy has made numerous references to his pay since the saga began.

In a statement issued the day after the scandal broke on 23 June, RTÉ’s top earner alluded to a 40% pay cut he had taken between 2012 and this year. 

“Over the period of my contract with RTE, I have been asked to take several reductions in salary and I did,” he said

“Indeed, between 2012 and today, my pay from RTE was cut by approximately 40%.”

After weeks of silence, the presenter finally appeared again on Tuesday and made a similar allusion to his pay in his opening statement to the Public Accounts Committee and the Oireachtas Media Committee.

In his first attempt to debunk seven “untruths” he claimed had circulated about him in recent weeks, Tubridy said he did take a pay cut from RTÉ in 2020, saying three times that there was a 20% drop in his pay between 2019 and this year.

“I took a 20% pay cut from RTÉ in my 2020-2025 contract. That’s it. I took a 20% pay cut from RTÉ,” he said, before repeating the figure again shortly afterwards.

“To be clear – I took a pay cut from RTÉ of 20% in 2020 for each of the five years of my contract, at a cost of €525,000 to me over the length of that contract.”

Let’s take a look at both of these percentage drops and whether they stack up with what Tubridy has actually earned from RTÉ over the years.

What Tubridy has earned from RTÉ since 2010

Before we begin looking at what Tubridy earned in various years, we should point out a technicality: as his claims centre only on what he was paid by RTÉ each year, that is all we are examining.

As a private contractor, Tubridy is paid by RTÉ through his company Tuttle Productions Limited, through which he also earns money from other commercial sources.

The figures that we’re about to refer to are what RTÉ paid to this company and not what Tubridy earned from that company.

This is not the basis of his claim and Tubridy has never suggested he took an overall pay-cut encompassing his total earnings via Tuttle Productions. 

The first of Tubridy’s contracts that’s relevant for our purposes is the one he had between 2010 and 2014, during which he became RTÉ’s highest earner.

Official figures from the national broadcaster from this time, which can be viewed here and here, show who its top ten earners were from 2008 to 2014.

They reveal that Tubridy earned:

  • €643,333 from RTÉ in 2010
  • €723,500 from RTÉ in 2011
  • €752,950 from RTÉ in 2012
  • €495,000 from RTÉ in 2013
  • €495,000 from RTÉ in 2014.

Screenshot 2023-07-11 180905 RTÉ pay from 2008 to 2011 RTÉ RTÉ

Screenshot 2023-07-11 180923 RTÉ pay from 2012 to 2014 RTÉ RTÉ

Note that he took a significant pay cut between 2012 and 2013, which came after RTÉ committed to cutting pay for presenters by at least 30% in 2011.

His exact RTÉ pay cut between 2012 and 2013 was €257,950 – almost 34% year-on-year. And his 2013 pay was also 32% below his earnings in 2011, the year that RTÉ made its commitment to cut presenters’ pay.

We’ll come back to Tubridy’s 2012 earnings from RTÉ shortly.

The second relevant contract for our purposes is the one he had between 2015 and 2019.

This contract has become the subject of controversy in recent weeks because RTÉ appears to have publicly understated Tubridy’s pay for three years from 2017 to 2019 (which we explain here).

For the purposes of this article, we’ll use figures relating to what Tubridy was actually paid by RTÉ in those years, rather than what it publicly said he was paid (as both Tubridy and RTÉ agree that he was paid €120,000 more than initially stated from 2017 to 2019).

According to figures provided to the Public Accounts Committee on Tuesday, Tubridy earned:

  • €495,000 from RTÉ in 2015
  • €495,000 from RTÉ in 2016
  • €545,000 from RTÉ in 2017
  • €545,000 from RTÉ in 2018
  • €545,000 from RTÉ in 2019.

Finally, we’ll also look at Tubridy’s earnings from RTÉ from 2020 to 2023 – though this is where things get a little complicated.

There are two aspects to this problem: the official figures for 2022 and 2023 have not been published yet; and the controversial payments relating to the Renault deal.

The first issue can be dealt with by way of the documents provided to PAC this morning, which includes a contract signed by Tubridy and his agent Noel Kelly in 2020.

That contract stated that Tubridy would be paid a €440,000 per year from 2020 to 2025. This bears out in RTÉ’s public figures for 2021, and though he earned €26,250 more in 2020, his new contract was not agreed until July that year.

The second issue regarding the Renault deal is less straightforward.

As anyone following the controversy will be aware, Tubridy received an additional payment of €75,000 from Renault in 2020 as part of a commercial deal.

And while we won’t count that payment here because it was paid by the car manufacturer, the fact that it was paid in each of the two years afterwards by RTÉ after Renault pulled out of the deal complicates matters.

Tubridy is adamant that despite being paid by the national broadcaster, the additional €150,000 over two years was not a salary top-up – he claimed that he wasn’t aware that RTÉ were paying for it because he received it after his agent Noel Kelly invoiced RTÉ’s barter account called Astus.

We’ll look at the implications of this in more detail below, where we’ll examine whether Tubridy’s various claims about taking pay cuts.

How much of a pay cut did Tubridy take after 2020?

Let’s revisit Tubridy’s claims around his pay.

In late June, he claimed to have taken a 40% pay cut from RTÉ between 2012 and this year.

In a straightforward analysis, it’s possible to see that this is true: Tubridy was paid €752,950 by the national broadcaster in 2012 and, according to his contract, €440,000 this year.

The €312,950 cut in pay from RTÉ between 2012 and 2023 represents a 42% drop over those 11 years (though it omits the fact that his pay did increase from 2017 to 2019 before falling again in 2020).

The second claim was made at yesterday’s Oireachtas Committee hearings, when Tubridy claimed repeatedly to have taken a 20% pay cut from RTÉ over the course of his current contract, which lasts from 2020 to 2025.

In basic terms, it’s possible to see why this could again be true.

Tubridy earned €545,000 in 2019 and his contract for each year from 2020 to 2025 stated that he would earn €440,000 per year.

At one stage in his statement, he said that he took a 20% pay cut from RTÉ “in my 2020-2025 contract”.

The €105,000 nominal drop from the 2019 figure is equal to 19% of €545,000 (not exactly 20% but close enough), which makes his claim true.

However, that fact is undermined by the €150,000 in Renault-related fees which were paid by RTÉ to Tubridy in 2021 and 2022.

In both 2021 and 2022, RTÉ paid the presenter €515,000 a year made up of his €440,000 salary and the additional €75,000 payments for the guaranteed Renault deal.

Although this was still a drop for Tubridy compared to what he earned in 2019, it represented just a 5% pay cut in each of those years – the first full years of his new contract – rather than a 20% cut.

Tubridy maintains that he did not know that these two €75,000 payments were from RTÉ, because he said he received payments from the national broadcaster’s ‘Astus’ barter account (which he claims he did not know belonged to the broadcaster).

What’s more, even though the presenter and his agent Noel Kelly repeatedly told politicians that the Renault deal was a commercial arrangement, the RTÉ guarantee featured as part of negotiations for – and ultimately featured in – his 2020-2025 contract.

This can clearly be seen in the emails supplied to PAC, which detail conversations between Kelly and RTÉ during those negotiations:

Screenshot 2023-07-12 104301

Screenshot 2023-07-12 104329

Screenshot 2023-07-12 104412

By making it into Tubridy’s final contact, the guaranteed payments increased the value of his contract – contradicting his overall claim to have taken a 20% cut.

Those negotiations also show Kelly sought to mitigate against Tubridy’s pay being cut in 2020, including a possible reduction in the number of Late Late Shows and radio shows that Tubridy would have to present and a guarantee from Dee Forbes of no further cuts:

Screenshot 2023-07-12 110212

At one point in his statement, Tubridy claimed that his new deal personally cost him €525,000 over the length of his contract.

This was clearly not the case because although he stood to earn €105,000 per year less for five years, it does not account for the additional €150,000 he earned via the two guaranteed Renault payments – which RTÉ paid him whether he knew about it or not.

If Tubridy finishes his contract to 2025 with no more additional payments, it will have been worth €2.2 million to him (not including that €150,000).

If he had been paid his 2019 rate for five years, his contract would have been worth €2.75 million to him, so the €2.2 million would indeed have been a 20% drop like Tubridy is claiming.

But that €150,000 in payments means Tubridy will have earned €2.35 million between 2020 and 2025 from RTÉ (presuming he makes no more additional money from the broadcaster), which is only a 15% cut on his 2019 rate over five years.

One could argue in another way that Tubridy took even less of a pay cut over the course of his two contracts when the value of payments are included as part of his current contract.

His 2015-2019 contract was worth €2.625 million to him (as documents show he earned €495,000 for the first two years and €545,000 for the final three years).

This means that the 2020-2024 deal, valued at €2.35 million if the €150,000 payments are included, would represent a cut of just €275,000 – equivalent to a 10% drop over the full course of both contracts.  

Ultimately the issue is one of semantics.

While it is true that Tubridy specifically took a roughly 20% pay cut from 2019 to 2020, this is just one way of looking at things.

In the end, his claims to have taken an overall cut and a cut in each year of his contract are critically undermined by the two €75,000 payments from RTÉ in 2021 and 2022, which formed part of his contract negotiations and which increased the value of his current contract.

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