Perhaps you’ve heard by now about CultureMap, the new digital thingy with outposts in Houston and Austin. They are launching in Dallas in a few months. I’ve been paying close attention to their North Texas operation mostly because its nascent masthead looks like a page torn out of an issue of D Magazine from 2005 (six current or former D empire staffers and contributors have signed on). From all early indications, a guy named Stephen Newman was running the show. He is IDed as the CEO. Except now CultureMap has appointed someone else as CEO of CultureMap. Her name is Alyce Alston and she’s an SMU grad.
First question, then, is what happened to Newman? The Austin Business Journal story I linked to doesn’t say boo about him. Second question is, how much did CultureMap pay Alston to grab the reins at CultureMap? According to this April 2010 SEC filing, Alston had a pretty sweet gig as the CEO of American Achievement Corporation. You know them as the folks who make Balfour class rings and publish yearbooks under the Taylor Publishing brand. From the filing:
Ms. Alston’s compensation will include a base salary of $500,000 per year, a one-time signing bonus plus the right to receive an annual bonus targeted at 100% of her base salary (subject to certain minimum amounts for 2010 and 2011 set forth in the agreement). Ms. Alston will also be entitled to participate in the Company’s cash incentive plan and will receive relocation benefits, which include moving and temporary living expenses. The term of Ms. Alston’s agreement is 3 years, absent some earlier termination in accordance with its terms. Upon certain termination events, Ms. Alston will be entitled to receive her base salary for the greater of 18 months or the remainder of her term, benefits continuation for 18 months and a pro-rated bonus amount for the year in which termination occurs.
It’s possible, then, that Alston was making $1 million a year. And her contract was to run through April 2013. So my third question is, did we experience a “termination event” at American Achievement?
I’m looking forward to seeing this site launch in Dallas and figuring out how it generates enough revenue to make the enterprise go. I’m sure its investors are, too.