EXCLUSIVE: Andre Bishop, Lincoln Center Theater’s longtime leader, earned pay and benefits of $911,670 in 2014, one of the richest compensation packages at a U.S. nonprofit theater.
Among the components listed in the organization’s latest tax return, Bishop’s salary increased by $99,000, or 16 percent, from a year earlier to $719,621. The return valued his benefits, including retirement and other deferred pay, at $192,049. His compensation more than doubled in nine years as the budget was little changed.
As commercial productions come and go on Broadway, the largest nonprofits and their leaders have showed remarkable staying power. These senior statesmen are compensated accordingly. Bishop’s package was equivalent to just over 2 percent of Lincoln Center Theater’s annual expenses. That’s high relative to comparable companies, but not unheard of. And since Executive Producer Bernard Gersten retired in June 2013, Bishop has overseen the artistry and business. “He took on the new position of Producing Artistic Director with added responsibilities,” LCT spokesman Philip Rinaldi said in an email. “So it isn’t accurate to compare his salary to that of other Artistic Directors since his duties have expanded beyond that of an Artistic Director.” (Roundabout Theatre Co. Artist Director Todd Haimes has a similar position.) Rinaldi didn’t make Bishop, 67, available for an interview.
Bishop is hardly the best paid at Lincoln Center. Jed Bernstein, president of Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, earned $1.16 million in pay and benefits in 2014, according to its tax return. (A former theater producer who had run the Broadway League, Bernstein resigned earlier this year after Lincoln Center found that he violated policy in not disclosing a personal relationship with an employee. The return didn’t disclose what, if any, severance he received, and a spokeswoman declined to comment.)
Peter Gelb, general manager of the Metropolitan Opera, earned $2 million in 2014, including retirement and other benefits. According to its return, Gelb in April 2014 voluntarily reduced his annual base salary, from $1.55 million to $1.395 million, as the Met struggled financially. Gelb earned more than twice that of Bishop. The Met’s $310 million in annual expenses are nine times LCT’s.
While leaders of the city’s largest nonprofit theater companies do well, they forego the windfalls their commercial counterparts occasionally enjoy. Haimes told American Theatre magazine that had he been a commercial producer, he would’ve made millions from the smash 1998 revival of Cabaret that instead enriched his employer. Haimes, who received $680,000 in pay and benefits in 2013, which includes funds set aside for retirement, said he was happy with his choice and isn’t paid unfairly. (His 2014 pay hasn’t yet been disclosed.)
Bishop, in an interview with Ken Davenport for The Producer’s Perspective podcast, stressed he’s also a de facto producer. “It’s not a job where I sit around eating bonbons discussing Sartre and George Bernard Shaw,” the former actor and literary manager said in his stentorian voice. “It’s hands-on, nitty-gritty work. Advertising. Money. And of course my best thing is working with the artists.”
Since joining as artistic director in 1992 (from Playwrights Horizons), he’s presented new work by Wendy Wasserstein, Stephen Sondheim, Christopher Durang, John Guare, Sarah Ruhl, Ayad Akhtar and many others. Bishop says he excels at collaborating with directors and in helping them figure out their vision. In recent years he’s presided over acclaimed revivals of the Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals South Pacific and The King & I and the hit import War Horse. Reynold Levy, the former Lincoln Center president, joked in his often withering 2015 memoir, They Told Me Not to Take That Job, that LCT’s major challenge seemed to be finding adequate space for its many Tony Awards.
Bishop’s $912,000 pay coincided in 2014-15 with LCT’s lowest attendance and box office in at least a decade, according to tax returns. Rinaldi said the latest return omitted sales and attendance figures for the 2014 Broadway transfer of Akhtar’s Disgraced, which the company co-produced while its Vivian Beaumont Theater was undergoing renovations.
Pension benefits were higher than usual because their value is sensitive to declines in interest rates, the return said. A board compensation committee determines Bishop’s pay while working with a consultant. As in the corporate world, the consultant looks at pay at comparable organizations.
Bishop’s salary was 16 times what actors make at his Mitzi Newhouse Theatre — $861 a week. On the flip side, his was a fraction of Lincoln Center Theater Chairman J. Tomilson Hill’s compensation as a top executive of the Blackstone Group. At the publicly traded alternative asset manager, which invests in real estate, private equity and other areas, Hill earned $25.9 million in 2014, 28 times what Bishop did.