8-year, $102 million deal puts Roethlisberger in CEO range of annual compensation
Using Ben Roethlisberger's statistics from last season, his new salary works out to a none-too-shabby $31,875 per pass attempt and $398,437.50 per touchdown.
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Let'$ put thi$ in per$pective.
Ben Roethlisberger can afford a new nickname now.
Big Bucks Ben.
The Steelers quarterback, the day after his 26th birthday, didn't simply pick up a $25.2 million bonus or $33.2 million in guaranteed income yesterday in his new, eight-year contract extension with the family heretofore stigmatized as the penny-pinching Rooneys.
He earned a future.
Look at it this way, as Hefren-Tillotson senior vice president Kenny McGee did: If Mr. Roethlisberger takes the signing bonus alone, roughly half of which will go to federal, state and local taxes, and invests the remaining $12.6 million in a portfolio that makes 9 percent annually before taxes, he could become a $100 million man.
"Tax it, take it, invest it and grow it," Mr. McGee said. "By the time he's 60 ---- and I think he'll be retired by then -- he'll have $100 million. Capitalism at its best."
Take a look at this, though, as ciphered by Celeste Suchko, a tax shareholder at the Alpern Rosenthal accounting firm: If Mr. Roethlisberger could take his entire $102 million contract and invest it at a 7-percent return, "by age 60, he'd have $1.5 billion.
"That gives you some juice."
Buy the Florida orange grove, if not all of Florida.
That would be enough cash to purchase the new billion-dollar Dallas Cowboys cathedral being built by Jerry Jones, but would he really want to buy a used stadium from that man?
It is indeed tricky territory into which Mr. Roethlisberger treads now, with the government and financiers and perhaps even friends needing small loans chasing him with the same abandon as pass rushers.
It is also relatively unprecedented in Pittsburgh pro-sports history, with Mr. Roethlisberger barging into the highest-end neighborhood ever by any Steeler, Pirate or Penguin.
His new deal is 70 percent greater than the highest-ever awarded a Pittsburgh athlete, Jason Kendall's $60 million, six-year deal of 2002.
His signing bonus is more than twice as big as the highest previously awarded by the Steelers or any other local franchise, the $10.975 million to Steelers safety Troy Polamalu last year.
His average yearly salary, $12.75 million, dwarfs the largest single-season sum ever earned by Pittsburgh's most celebrated single athlete of the past generation, Mario Lemieux.
True, pro sports is an ever-escalating pay scale. Lump him in with Pittsburgh's highest-paid CEOs, and Mr. Roethlisberger's new average salary ranks no lower than third in the most recent list compiled by the Post-Gazette, between Allegheny Technologies' L. Patrick Hassey at $15.535 million and PNC's James Rohr at $12.199 million. Of course, as the old joke goes, Mr. Roethlisberger had a better year.
Yesterday's contract numbers sent Hefren-Tillotson's Mr. McGee, for one, to his calculator.
"The first thing that popped in my mind was, 'OK, you got this huge contract. You got all this money. How does that break out at a per-game basis?'" By Mr. McGee's computations, a 20-game schedule -- regular season, playoffs and Super Bowl---- would break down to $10,625 per minute, "whether the defense or offense is on the field."
Using Mr. Roethlisberger's stats from last season, it also comes out to $31,875 per pass attempt and $398,437.50 per touchdown.
This is a young man who earned roughly $1 million this past season, and suddenly he's set to earn more than 12 times that much?
How does it compare?
Highest Season Salary
Ben Roethlisberger | Steelers
Mario Lemieux | Penguins, 1997
Matt Morris | Pirates, 2008
Jaromir Jagr | Penguins, 2001
Roethlisberger | Steelers, 2008
Troy Polamalu | Steelers, 2007
Hines Ward | Steelers, 2005
Brian Giles | Pirates, 2000
*Average over life of contract
**$5.5 million deferred
"It's hard to fathom, isn't it? That percentage of pay increase?" asked Ms. Suchko of Alpern Rosenthal. But accounting is what she does, and she offers some advice before somebody suddenly as wealthy as Mr. Roethlisberger spends a penny: invest, listen to financial advisers, be cautious.
Anyone earning more than $357,700 in a year pays the highest federal tax, at 35 percent. So, Ms. Suchko said, "he's exposed to the same tax as he was before. It's just more zeroes.
"He can get married, which would help him," she advised with a chuckle (she's married, so she wasn't trying to angle for anything). "There is a little bit of a tax benefit there."
As with pro athletes, there also is what she calls "duty-day basis" taxes: Various cities and states charge them for the days they work there, even as visitors. Their teams usually withhold such taxes, but an athlete can find himself or herself with a bunch of W-2s from other places.
"It could be really brutal trying to keep track of all of this, especially when you make this kind of deal," she added.
Now that he can afford more than a reported home in Hampton with a pet shower, what could Mr. Roethlisberger purchase with his newfound wealth?
• He could spend an entire season's salary and buy a top-of-the-line Rolex for each member of the Steelers' roster ... the Miami (Ohio) traveling roster ... and the Findlay High roster, some 150 in all at the platinum, special-edition, day-date model sold at Henne Jewelers for $84,800 apiece.
• If he wanted to treat his offensive linemen extra special, beyond his weekly praise, he could buy each a 2008 Hummer H2 at Cochran Automotive for whom he has served as a pitchman. Trick out those babies over their $56,735 base, buy a few extra vehicles for his parents and sister, then give each 100,000 gallons of premium gas, and at an estimated $5.6 million he would have barely spent half a year's pay.
• He could use his bonus to try to impress the girl he's reportedly dating, actor Missy Peregrym of television's "Smallville," with a big building. The 11-story Union Trust Building, Downtown, just sold to a Los Angeles group for $24.1 million. But, said Frank Molinero, senior vice president at Oxford Development, "We'd probably want to sell him a new condo in the PNC III Development" at Fifth and Liberty. They're only $500,000-plus apiece. "Yeah, but by the time he pays for parking ..."
Mr. Molinero thought for a second and agreed, with 30 condo units as part of the office and hotel development, "he could buy them all."
First Published March 4, 2008 12:00 am