President’s $1.4-million golden handshake

Retiring McMaster prez to get $99,999/year for 14 years—$1 less than disclosure rules


After nearly two years of fighting against public disclosure, McMaster University released the contract of its president Peter George to The Hamilton Spectator today.

The contract posted by The Spectator on it’s website reveals that George will receive a golden handshake of nearly $1.4 million after his scheduled July 2010 retirement.

The money will be paid over 14 years at a rate of $99,999 a year. (George will have served 15 years as president upon his retirement)

This figure is significant as it is the maximum full-dollar amount the university could, under the rules of disclosure in place when the contract was signed in 2005, pay George without revealing the payment.

Until 2006, Ontario universities were exempt from freedom of information. They have been covered by the Public Sector Salary Disclosure Act (PSSDA) since it’s implementation in 1996. PSSDA requires universities to disclosure the names of all employees paid $100,000 or more in a calendar year. If George were paid one dollar more each year after retirement, the university would be required to report it publicly.

Other perks in the contract include two life-insurance policies, $30,000 over the five-year contract for “financial estate planning, including legal counsel, in respect of his personal affairs,” memberships in local clubs, a nearly $11,000 per year car allowance (which is declared as a taxable benefit in his yearly salary disclosure), a $20,000-a-year “Health Care Spending Account” to be used for expenses not covered by the university’s regular staff benefits, and provision for “business-class” air travel on flights longer than four hours.

The contract does not include a salary scale for the president. “The President’s salary shall be subject to annual review on or before June 30 of each contract year,” the contract states.

Last year, George was Ontario’s highest paid university president, with total income and taxable benefits of nearly $505,000.


President’s $1.4-million golden handshake

  1. And that’s not including his pension either, is it? It’s just a really, really, long golden handshake for retiring. Added to his pension based on 15 years at that salary rate, and well, it’s an awful lot of money…..

  2. His pension is estimated to be just over $300,000 a year. The combined total means George will be making more than most university presidents even in retirement.

  3. Some will say such perks are not unusual in a corporate world but universities are publicly funded! The amount of money that goes to one person (whose value to McMaster and Ontario cannot possibly be greater than that of a Prime Minister) is taken away from education and thus denied students.

    Shockingly, McMaster performance slipped substantially during Peter George’s tenure on most relevant measures. The Board of Directors rewarded the president for eroding the institution. Where is the accountability?

  4. I’m not sure about the particulars of McMaster, but the government defers most of its authority over universities to boards of governors to insure a level of autonomy. Your complaint would rest with the board whom the president would be directly responsible to.

  5. Hamilton (home of McMaster University) houses Ontario’s highest poverty population. One word – greed. Quite a sad commentary, really.

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  7. Comparing Davenport’s and George’s contracts, one concludes that at least everything in Davenport’s is above board. Unfortunately, it is not clear one can say the same for McMaster and one can more easily understand why they fought for two years to keep this information hidden. They were expected to lose their legal battle and eventually released this information in the middle of summer (no student newspaper articles!) just before a holiday.

    Why did the Board of Governors at McMaster think it was in the university’s best interests to pay their president for 14 years following retirement, shave off a dollar from the $100K which would require public disclosure and call it an academic leave? Davenport’s retirement allowance will be disclosed under Ontario’s PSSDA, so they obviously were not trying to hide it from public scrutiny. Also, as clearly spelled out in UWO’s contract with Davenport, an academic leave requires one to file a research plan and approval is not guaranteed. McMaster has this same requirement for academic leaves.

    Really, whose interests were the McMaster’s Board of Governors protecting? Someone should be asking them this question and to explain why they decided on 14 years and $99,999/yr.

  8. Hey Catherine,

    While I consider McMaster’s timing suspect, I can tell you that it is safer for the university to release this information in the summer than fall if they are concerned about the student newspaper.

    The MSU executive can fire the student newspaper editor on a whim and it is much easier in the summer. If the editor ran an article the university did not like and the MSU was giving some negative feedback, I would not be surprised to see the editor looking for a new job.

    Any editor with half a brain at the Silhouette knows that the university and MSU are off-limits during the summer. If you want to do anything on those two subjects, you wait till the third week of the fall term and make sure that groups of students are lined up with an impeachment petition at the ready.

    I believe the timing of the disclosure had more to do with the university’s fundraising efforts than any other factor. It’s hard to convince a lot of alumni to donate “small” (compared to the large million+ donations) amounts at a time when you are fighting against public disclosure. Getting this out of the way benefits the president as he goes on the wine-and-cheese circuit this fall.

  9. Sure doesn’t sound like there’s much ‘freedom of speech’ in the student newspaper on the topic of McMaster!

    I guess McMaster will see if this disclosure got it out of the way. Seems to me that agreeing to pay $99,999 for 14 years looks pretty damaging. Lots of other contracts are being released now, and I don’t see anything in the others that looks like it was meant never to see the light of day.

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  12. I admire Mr. Coleman’s tenacity. Regardless of the situation, he does not fail to input his two words about the inner Illuminati of the MSU, even if the situation he brings up has no connection to the current administration.

  13. Thank you LOL,

    I admire my own tenacity.

    The comments of the current McMaster Students Union president are completely relevant to the discussion of Dr. George’s $99999/yr pay out.

    I ran the entire statement from the MSU president.

    The fact it reflects poorly upon the current MSU president has nothing to do with me and everything to do with his statement.

  14. Pingback: Wow: I’m speechless : Macleans OnCampus

  15. The thing I admire about Joey Coleman is that he uses his name to back up his words.

  16. Evan: I couldn’t agree more – anonymity is what’s wrong with much of the Internet. Randall Munroe illustrated this nicely:

    I applaud anyone who is willing to put his name to his words and condemn anyone who snipes from the cover and cowardice of anonymity.

  17. Honestly, I don’t mind too much when people post anonymously.

    Sometimes it’s annoying and people state things anonymously they would not if their names were attached.

    However, anonymous comments can just as easily advance a conversation.
    This is not one of those cases.

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  20. Crime does pay.

  21. I have not ever heard of such attractive perk in universities. Getting $ 10,00,000 per year for 14 years as a pension is really great perk. Though in corporate world, it is not unusual thing. Congrats to Peter George for the great Golden handshake of $1.4 million!

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