The job of professional sports commissioners is incredibly demanding. They are responsible for resolving disputes, negotiating contracts, handling disciplinary matters and promoting the overall league. Every decision is scrutinized by the media and fans. It can be a demanding, high pressure job. Fortunately for them, sports commissioners are compensated very well for their high profile jobs. The best ones make salaries that rival those of the highest paid players in their respective sports. Let's take a look at the top paid sports commissioners.

In Pictures: Top 5 Most Hair-Raising Contracts

No.1 Bud Selig, MLB Commissioner
Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig grabs the number one spot, bringing in just under $19 million a year. Selig earned $18.35 million dollars in 2007 alone. He made $17.47 million dollars in base compensation, $461,540 in employee benefits, and another $422,590 in expense allowances. That would be a nice haul for a player, let alone a sports commissioner. There are only 10 players in the entire sport that currently make more money than Selig.

With the labor problems, World Series cancellation and All Star game fiasco all occurring under his watch, Bud Selig still manages to pull in a multi-million dollar salary. (For more on baseball, check out A History Of Baseball Economics and Baseball Greats Who Were Paid Like Benchwarmers.)

No.2 Roger Goodell, NFL Commissioner
National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell rules over one of the most profitable sports league in the world. The NFL generated nearly $8 billion dollars in revenue last year and is the most popular sport in the United States. Goodell seems underpaid, making just $11 million in compensation last year. He has frozen his compensation for the current year in an effort to cut operating costs. This is after Goodell took a 25% pay cut the previous year.

Goodell's salary is well below Selig's despite the NFL having greater revenues, operating income, profitability and being a whole lot more popular than baseball. It looks like Goodell has some renegotiating to do.

No.3 David Stern, NBA Commissioner
Two men are credited with helping the National Basketball Association reach its height of popularity in the '90s. Michael Jordan is one and NBA Commissioner David Stern is the other. Stern is generally regarded as the "best commissioner in all of sports" because of the job he has done keeping labor peace and promoting the NBA brand around the world.

For his efforts, it is believed that Stern has received a salary of approximately $10 million dollars annually. The NBA does not publicly disclose the commissioner's salary. Stern was the highest paid commissioner in all of sports in the '90s. He has since been surpassed in compensation by Goodell and Selig. (Check out some stats on the most recent NBA finals in NBA Finals: By The Numbers.)

No.4. Gary Bettman, NHL Commissioner
The National Hockey League Commissioner took home $7.2 million dollars in salary last year. This is a generous salary for a league that has been plagued by labor unrest and financial troubles. The NHL's television ratings are not as strong as the other league's and regular season games are no longer carried by major networks. Bettman has seen his compensation escalate as the NHL struggles.

Only 11 NHL superstars receive more compensation than the NHL's chief boss.

No.5 Tim Finchem, PGA Tour Commissioner
PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem rounds out the list with his salary and bonuses amounting to $5.3 million dollars last year. Finchem's salary was flat at $1.3 million dollars per year. Performance bonuses accounted for the other $4 million dollars. With the help of Tiger Woods, Finchem has been responsible for doubling the total revenue for the PGA over the last 12 years. Revenue has grown from just under half a billion in 1996 to nearly $1 billion dollars in 2007. The PGA Tour has grown its fan base to move from being a niche sport to a major one.

The Bottom Line
Professional sports commissioners make a nice living as the CEOs of sports leagues. Unlike players, they can continue earning large salaries for 20 years or more if they choose to do so. So maybe it's time to put down the baseball bat and start practicing your contract negotiation skills. (For more, check out Sports Stars Worth Every Penny.)

Catch up on your financial news; read Water Cooler Finance: Who Is The Next Buffett?

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