Secret Severance Agreement included gift of a car

REPORT: Trustee Chairman who authorized secret package published multiple books with LifeWay

In another case of church ministries following after the culture, the former LifeWay CEO Thom Rainer received a secret, $1,000,000-plus severance package after running eight straight years of multi-million dollar losses at the Southern Baptist Convention publisher.

According to Will Hall of the Baptist Message, “During his tenure at Lifeway, the $500 million publishing arm of the Southern Baptist Convention experienced eight consecutive years of multi-million dollar losses prior to Rainer announcing in 2017 his intention to resign in 2018. He stayed in leadership through February 2019, the month before the announced closing of all 170 LifeWay bookstores. A Baptist Press analysis of LifeWay’s 2010-2017 audits showed ‘total operating expenses exceeded sales,’ growing in deficit each year from $2.3 million to $35.5 million.”

And as we reported in our stories on the leaked memo and leaked audio, LifeWay trustees were not informed about this secret, sweetheart severance package. And the package was approved by then LifeWay trustee chairman and current trustee Jimmy Scroggins.

Will Hall explains the interesting links between Scroggins and LifeWay.

“Lifeway has published materials by Scroggins in 2016 and 2020 and a book is slated for release in 2021, according to advertising on lifeway.com and amazon.com,” Hall reported. “The leaked memo explained that Scroggins had agreed to retain Rainer as ‘an employee of LifeWay and provided him with full salary and benefits until Oct. 31, 2020 and gifted him a new car.’”

You should read the rest of Will Hall’s reporting on this. It is important. It even includes details about LifeWay’s interesting real estate decisions and how it paid a premium for the hip location of its present headquarters.

All of that while LifeWay was bleeding money.

LifeWay’s losses forced the organization to close its retail stores. In March of 2019, LifeWay announced it would shutter all 170 of its brick and mortar stores.

Cost cutting continued in 2020 as the COVID-19 Pandemic required LifeWay to find additional savings.

But, until this dispute over the non-compete agreement, Rainer was receiving his severance pay. In fact, that caused new LifeWay CEO Ben Mandrell some problems as he was forced to tighten the belt during the Pandemic.

In the leaked audio, Mandrell said, “So, I picked up the phone and called Dr. Rainer and I said, I had to have a hard conversation with him that my conscience would not let me rest and I asked him to give back a portion of the money he had been receiving from LifeWay so that we could save some jobs.”

Rainer rejected returning his golden parachute. And it would have remained secret were it not for the public dispute over the non-compete.

Which prompts us to wonder: What else is secret in the SBC?

We need a forensic audit of all our SBC entities and we need it now.

2 thoughts on “Former LifeWay CEO received secret $1,000,000+ severance after 8 years of multi-million dollar losses”

  1. My name is Michael Adney. I am the Glorieta Conf Center whistleblower that spent 4 years in strict obiediance uncovering, in part, how Thom Rainer intentionally drained $72M from that esteemed piece of God’s earthly heaven, to purchase the bookstores, to advance his own publications, while Baptists loss their homes and the property sank into a dump state.
    madney1@yahoo.com

  2. Wow, what a mess. My family left the SBC several years ago, and I left behind the political mess, so I’m not very up to date on the details. Thanks for sharing.

    Couple of things:
    1) Did Lifeway have any sort of financial statement audit? It would not be unusual for an organization of that size to have an annual audit of its financial statements. If so, the non-compete and severance agreement would have been looked at by someone (because the auditors would have asked, in various ways, about these sorts of activities)…or someone would have had to lie to the auditors.
    2) I have no idea who Ranier is, or what his resume looks like. Generally speaking, someone running a $500M organization, ministry or not, would have a pretty substantial pay package. It would not be unusual for someone which a pretty substantial pay package to have a fairly large severance package.
    3) However, it doesn’t sound like Ranier was running a very good organization. It does sound like Ranier should have been under serious scrutiny for the operating losses…and that should have come to bear in the severance package negotiations.
    4) All in all, it sounds like a circle where everyone is scratching everyone’s back.

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