Reagan’s Fee Per Speech: A Cool $50,000

Times Staff Writer

Ronald Reagan will charge $50,000 for each speech he delivers on what the former President has called the “mashed potato circuit,” sources familiar with proposed booking arrangements for Reagan said Friday. The fee would make him the highest-paid speaker in the country.

Reagan’s wife, Nancy, will charge $30,000 a speech, the same sources said.

Despite the price, more than 25 corporations, associations and conventions already have inquired about booking the popular ex-President, according to Bernie Swain, a partner in the Washington Speakers Bureau Inc. Swain’s firm confirmed Friday that it has reached an exclusive agreement to represent both Reagans.

Reagan said frequently during his last year in office that he plans to make the rounds on the “mashed potato circuit,” speaking out on such favorite issues as the need for a balanced budget and his opposition to the 22nd Amendment, which limits a President to two terms.


“They’ve both said they’ll be doing speeches,” said Mark Weinberg, director of public affairs for Reagan’s new office in Century City. “They’ll both be very active as speakers. . . . They don’t believe in retirement and they will be active in every respect of the word.”

So far, however, Reagan has announced only one speech: an address he plans to give--for free--at the University of Southern California on Feb. 6, his 78th birthday. The speech will deal with his plans for the future, Weinberg said.

Neither Weinberg nor Swain would discuss the terms of the agreement between the Reagans and the agency, nor the fees the former First Couple will charge. However, a Los Angeles Convention and Visitors Bureau official said he was told by a representative of Washington Speakers Bureau Inc. that the fees would be $50,000 for Reagan and $30,000 for his wife. Another informed source confirmed the figures.

“They called me and said, ‘OK, what groups do you have coming to L.A. that we may possibly contact?”’ said Frank Santos, the convention bureau’s director of sales for conventions and marketing. “I told them many groups would like to have him, but, well, that’s an awful lot of money.”

Both Reagans have settled quickly into their post-White House careers. On Wednesday, Simon & Schuster announced that it had bought the rights--for what is believed to be $5 million--to two books by Reagan. Nancy Reagan is completing memoirs for which she is said to have received a $2-million advance from Random House.

More Than Walter Cronkite

If Reagan speaks just twice a month, he will earn $1.2 million a year. No one, with the exception of some Hollywood entertainers, can command such high fees. Paul Harvey and Walter Cronkite, two of the highest-paid speakers, charge about $35,000 each. Bob Hope charged $60,000 for one appearance last year.

“You’ve got to put this into context,” Swain said. “If a business or convention goes out and gets entertainment for a night, they may spend $100,000 to $300,000.”

Swain said his agency was told Wednesday that it had been selected, after an intense competition among several agencies, to represent the Reagans. The small but respected 8-year-old agency represents, among others, former Marine Lt. Col. Oliver North, former Sen. Paul Laxalt (R-Nevada), Maureen Reagan, the former President’s daughter, former Reagan White House chief of staff Ken Duberstein and syndicated columnist Art Buchwald.

Within a day and a half, Swain said, he sent Reagan’s office a list of about 20 proposed speaking engagements, along with another half dozen for Nancy Reagan. He said he expects to hear early next week which ones the Reagans will choose.

All are on the West Coast, where the two could return to their Bel-Air home after a speech, he said. Later, Swain added, the schedule will be extended to the East Coast.

“Obviously, I’m getting a real good response,” he said.

Swain declined to discuss his own agency’s commissions on the Reagans’ engagements. He said standard fees in the industry run from 20% to 33%. He said his agency usually receives a 20% commission.