Dinosaur Museum’s Futter Earned $972,249 as Assets Stabilized

Ellen Futter
Ellen Futter, president of the American Museum of Natural History. Futter sits on a committee that oversees risk at JPMorgan Chase & Co. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg

For the past 18 years of the 65 million since dinosaurs roamed the earth, Ellen V. Futter has run the American Museum of Natural History, earning as much as $1.1 million annually for her efforts.

In 2009, according to the museum’s most recent Federal income tax return, Futter, 61, was paid $972,249 in pay and benefits, or 20 cents for each visitor to the house that Teddy Roosevelt and Margaret Mead built.

Futter’s pay was 5 percent higher than Thomas P. Campbell’s, the director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, even though the Natural History museum’s budget is just over half the Met’s. Futter took over in 1993, whereas Campbell, a tapestry curator, was elevated in 2009.

The tax return said a record 5 million people visited the museum in 2009-2010. Its Richard Gilder Graduate School, the only museum-based grad school in the country conferring a Ph.D., was fully accredited. A six-and-a-half-minute YouTube video that the museum created about the universe went viral, attracting more than 8 million views, according to YouTube.

Today, exhibitions include “The World’s Largest Dinosaurs.”

The museum said in the return that it sets executive pay with the help of an outside lawyer and a compensation consultant who look at pay at comparable institutions.

A year earlier, Futter took a 5 percent salary cut as the value of the museum’s investments plunged with financial markets. In 2008-2009, net assets fell $146 million, or 18 percent. They rebounded in the year ending in June 2010, up 0.5 percent.

In 2009, Futter’s compensation was up $5,000, or 0.5 percent. She also earned $245,000 in cash and stock as a director of JPMorgan Chase & Co. and $149,290 as a Consolidated Edison Inc. director.

Michael Novacek, the museum’s senior vice president and provost of science, earned $531,606; Barbara Gunn, who headed operations and government relations, was paid $491,190. In early 2010, Gunn took over Seedco, a New York-based nonprofit that offers job training and other services.

-- Editors: Jeremy Gerard, Lili Rosboch.