Liberty pays Falwell two years’ base salary in severance deal
Falwell made $1.1 million at Liberty in 2018
Liberty University announced Tuesday that it has paid Jerry Falwell Jr., its embattled and controversial former president and chancellor, two years’ base salary as severance. Falwell resigned on Aug. 25 under a barrage of international media coverage of his alleged role in a sex scandal involving his wife’s admitted affair with a former pool attendant the couple befriended.
Although the university said earlier media reports — in which Falwell himself said he was owed $10.5 million in severance — were incorrect regarding Falwell’s expected compensation, it did not divulge the specific amount paid to Falwell, who was president of the Lynchburg-based private Christian university for 13 years.
The university’s 2018 financial disclosure forms reported Falwell’s total annual compensation was in excess of $1.1 million, with a base pay of $1.09 million. According to a July report in the Chronicle of Higher Education, Falwell’s base salary was $985,911 in 2017, the most recent year’s information provided, and $953,503 in 2016. His total compensation topped $1 million each of those years, including benefits, the report stated.
“Today, Liberty University paid its former president, Jerry Falwell, Jr., the severance owed under his employment contract,” the university’s announcement says. “Media reports regarding the size and terms of the severance to be paid upon the employment separation of Liberty University and Mr. Falwell Jr. are incorrect. As Liberty University has already stated, Mr. Falwell’s severance compensation was dictated by the terms of his pre-existing employment agreement without any adjustment by the university or its board.”
The Washington Post reported Aug. 25 that Falwell said in an interview that his contract entitled him to $10.5 million in severance, in part because he departed from the university without a formal accusation of wrongdoing. He added that he would receive $2.5 million over two years in exchange for not working at a competing institution, and would receive $8 million in retirement after the two years were up. He told the Post that he had signed a contract with the university in July 2019 outlining those terms.
However, in Liberty’s statement, “there was no severance and no retirement negotiated in exchange for Mr. Falwell’s resignation last month. By his pre-existing contract, Mr. Falwell is entitled to two years’ base salary as severance. Additional compensation that Mr. Falwell receives under his agreement following his resignation are only accrued retirement benefits. These accrued retirement payments reflect reasonable terms after 30 years of service to Liberty, with 13 as university president.”
With more than 110,000 students enrolled, most of them online, Liberty is Virginia’s largest school by enrollment and is the nation’s second-largest online university, behind the University of Phoenix.
Falwell, who was the university’s general counsel before becoming president in 2007, is broadly credited for bringing Liberty out of deep debt to its current financial strength, including a $1.59 billion endowment as of 2019. The university also dramatically increased online enrollment during his tenure, completed more than $1 billion in construction projects and built an impressive athletics program.
Falwell resigned as president and chancellor in August, after a young man came forward with allegations that he had been involved in a sexual relationship with Falwell’s wife, Becki, for several years with Falwell’s full knowledge, and that Jerry Falwell had participated by watching the two have sex. Falwell has denied all involvement in the physical relationship, although Falwell acknowledged in an interview that his wife had an affair with the man.
In an August report in Reuters, Giancarlo Granda, now 29, said he met the Falwells in 2012 when he was a 20-year-old pool attendant at the luxury Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami. Granda later began a business partnership with the Falwells’ son, Trey Falwell, running a youth hostel out of a $4.65 million investment property in Miami Beach. According to the article, Trey Falwell’s parents gave him the money to purchase the property.
According to the Reuters article, Granda, who has since graduated from Georgetown Law School, tried to extract himself from his financial and personal relationship with the Falwells in 2018, but the couple wouldn’t buy out his part of the Miami property. The relationship soured, and Granda said in text messages to the couple that he would have to go public with his story, the article said. Falwell responded that Granda was trying to extort the couple, which Granda has denied.
At the time of the Reuters article’s release, Falwell had already taken an indefinite leave of absence at the request of the Liberty University board, and former board chairman Jerry Prevo is currently the university’s interim president. In August following Falwell’s resignation, the university said it had hired an outside firm to investigate Liberty’s finances, real estate holdings and other business dealings during Falwell’s tenure as president.
Falwell said via text message Tuesday that he is not doing media interviews.