Vinay Mehra, who left as president of Boston Globe Media Partners in 2020 after just three years in the job, yesterday sued the company over the more than $12 million in lost wages, commissions and severance he claims he is owed under a contract he charges John and Linda Henry's company decided not to honor - times three, under the state wage act.
In his suit, filed in Suffolk Superior Court, Mehra charges that despite returning the Globe to profitability, John Henry and his corporate minions decided to cheap out - and then ousted him after threatening and lying about him with an unquenchable "thirst for vengeance" sending him a termination letter alleging "fraud, misappropriate, embezzlement or acts of similar dishonesty" - in a way that might allegedly sound familiar to Red Sox fans, for example:
Defendant made false and baseless accusations that Mr. Mehra had used its charitable "Feed the Frontline" program - an initiative created for healthcare workers to receive meals from local restaurants during the pandemic - to enrich himself and his family. The Globe knew full well that it had no legitimate basis for its wholly unfounded insinuations. out of a motive to retaliate against and harm him, it levied them anyway.
The Globe hired Mehra as president in 2017 from Politico, where he had been CFO - a job he took after leaving a similar post at WGBH.
In his complaint, Mehra says he was hired specifically to help return the Globe to profitability, after "unprofitable year after unprofitable year," since the Henrys bought the paper in 2013, and that his contract provided that, starting in 2019, he would be paid "5% of the Globe's profits beyond $5 million based on cash flow."
He said he succeeded, to the point where the Globe brought in "tens of millions of dollars in profit" in 2019 and that projections for 2020 in June of that year showed "profits projected to equal or exceed those of 2019."
The complaint states that, in 2019, he was able to cut $10 million in expenses through "targeted layoffs, reduction in vendor costs, reduction in distribution costs and other measures" - even as he was adding revenue, such as a $1.5 million "contribution" from health insurer Harvard Pilgrim in 2020. The suit says that in May, 2020, Globe expenses were down $710,000 from May, 2019.
As a result of his dual efforts to augment revenues and cut costs, the Globe became highly profitable after years of floundering. In 2018, it ended the year with a positive EBITDA of over $10 million. For 2019, it had positive cash flow of tens of millions of dollars - resulting in an incentive payment to Mr. Mehra of approximately $1.435 million.
But, the suit alleges, Mehra became a victim of his own success: That when Henry allegedly saw how much money he would be owed in commissions based on his contract, he decided that was just too much.
Fulsome praise from Henry and other Boston Globe Media Partners executives turned to criticism and threats, he alleges.
As Globe executive and Henry Organization CFO David Carillo reported to Mr. Mehra in December, 2019, Mr. Henry was "shocked" by the amount of the commission and Mr. Mehra's resulting overall anticipated compensation for the year.
Mr. Carillo also told Mr. Mehra that the estimated commission was "too rich" and that Mr. Henry "wouldn't be happy" to pay it. Although Mr. Henry indicated that Mr. Mehra "is having a great year and deserves something special this year," he bafflingly stated that the total compensation that Mr. Mehra had earned "doesn't fit with our current executive comp structure or our bottom line."
The suit alleges Carillo tried to get him to accept a lesser commission, more in line with what the Globe allegedly paid other executives, but that Mehra refused, saying he wanted to be paid what the company had agreed to in its contract with him.
The Globe threatened to terminate Mr. Mehra and replace him with owner Linda Henry if he did not accept a lower commission in place of what he was owed.
The suit continues the Globe "begrudgingly" paid him his 2019 commission in February, 2020, but that it then began its campaign to force him to sign a new contract or be fired "for cause," a campaign he says included bringing up things other Globe execs knew about but which he had not previously been questioned about:
When Mr. Mehra began at the Globe in 2017, he leased a car for himself and other employees to use for Globe business, consistent with prior corporate practice. He also enrolled in a Bloomberg data subscription that was used as an important data source at the paper throughout his tenure and was not questioned until the Globe needed an excuse to terminate him. The Globe even criticized Mr. Mehra for entertaining a key Company client at the Super Bowl in February 2019.
In addition to suing for breach of contract and unjust enrichment, Mehra is also suing for retaliation for the way the Globe allegedly harassed and then fired him after he resisted its attempts to slash his pay and for alleged violations of the state wages act, which allows for treble damages.
When Mehra left the Globe on June 30, 2020, Linda Henry, then managing director of Boston Globe Media Partners, issued an anodyne statement praising Mehra for "helping to stabilize and grow our remarkable organization" and thanking him for "building an incredibly strong and effective senior leadership team."
A date for the Globe to respond to Mehra's lawsuit has yet to be set.