While technology executives are grabbing headlines and wealth with lucrative initial public offerings, media bosses are outpacing them with their pay packages.
CBS Corp. (CBS:US) paid Chief Executive Officer Leslie Moonves $66.9 million in 2013 to close the gap on Oracle Corp. (ORCL:US)’s Larry Ellison, the top-earner with $78.4 million. Moonves’s compensation brought his three-year total to almost $200 million, while his chairman, Sumner Redstone, got $109 million over the same period, according to a regulatory filing April 11.
The CBS packages are among the highest reported so far for 2013 by Standard & Poor’s 500 Index companies, a sign that the media industry continues to lavish on its leaders, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Corporate boards are driving up compensation by offering pay that at least matches the average of their peers. CBS and Viacom Inc. (VIA:US), also chaired by Redstone, both cited retention as a reason for the pay escalation.
“What one CEO at a media company gets is based on what other media executives get, even if they’re at much larger or very different companies, and that keeps driving pay up,” said Charles Elson, director of the John L. Weinberg Center of Corporate Governance at the University of Delaware and a professor of law there.
CBS, the most-watched TV network in the U.S., said it looked at pay scales at competitors including Time Warner Inc. (TWX:US) and Walt Disney Co. (DIS:US) as well as companies where it “may lose executive talent” such as Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN:US) and Cisco Systems Inc. (CSCO:US)
The CBS board also decided in February to increase Moonves’s grants of restricted stock by $1.5 million per year to $11 million, which will likely boost his 2014 compensation.
“This is the fifth consecutive year that the company’s performance significantly exceeded the S&P 500, including a period during which CBS stock appreciated by more than 20 times,” Dana McClintock, a spokesman, said in an e-mail.
Among the 15 companies that make up the S&P 500 Media Index, CBS was the top-performing stock last year with a gain of 68 percent. The New York-based company also led over the past three years by more than tripling.
As of April 12, Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman was second in the media industry with a total pay at $37.2 million.
“We compete for talented executives in a highly-compensated industry based largely in the New York and Los Angeles markets,” New York-based Viacom said in its compensation report.
Robert Iger, chairman and CEO of Walt Disney, checked in with $34.3 million for third place, and David Zaslav, who runs the smaller Discovery Communications Inc. (DISCA:US), received $33.3 million. At Philadelphia-based Comcast Corp. (CMCSA:US), the largest U.S. cable company, Chairman and CEO Brian Roberts received $31.4 million, while Steve Burke, who runs the NBCUniversal division, collected $31.1 million, according to a filing.
“The board view is a CEO might move if he isn’t paid what his peers are when evidence shows they don’t or can’t move very often,” said Elson, the law professor.
Ellison’s $78.4 million package for the fiscal year ended in May was disclosed in September and rejected by shareholders in the Redwood City, California-based software maker the following month in a non-binding vote at the annual meeting.
Among the top compensations awarded in 2013 so far was the $52.5 million paid to Nolan Archibald, who retired as chairman of Stanley Black & Decker Inc. (SWK:US) He received a bonus for meeting cost savings as a result of the 2010 merger of Stanley with Black & Decker. The previous year, Archibald got $10.7 million.
Moonves, 64, saw his total pay rise 7.7 percent in 2013. That includes a bonus of $28.5 million, $26.5 million in stock awards and $5.85 million in option awards, according to the filing. Moonves’s salary held steady at $3.51 million.
“I don’t have a problem with the amounts being granted as long as they are predicated on the right performance metrics, which they typically aren’t,” Paul G. Hodgson, co-founder of BHJ Partners, a governance consultant, said by phone. “With this level of pay it has to depend for eventual vesting on continued outperformance of peers.”
CEOs from media and communications companies were the highest paid group on the S&P 500 with median compensation of $12.3 million, while energy CEOs received $10.5 million. Technology companies paid their CEOs a median of $9.8 million in 2013 and utilities CEOs got $7.9 million.
Redstone, CBS’s 90-year-old chairman and controlling shareholder, almost doubled his annual compensation to $57.2 million, the filing shows. That included a $10 million bonus and a $45.4 million change in the value of his pension. At Viacom, owner of Comedy Central and MTV, Redstone received $36.2 million in 2013, up 77 percent from the year earlier.
Facebook Inc., the biggest technology IPO in history, is paying its CEO a paltry amount by comparison: Mark Zuckerberg earned $653,165 in total compensation. His fortune, however, mostly derives from his stake in the social-media company and his net worth stands at $26.3 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. At Twitter Inc. (TWTR:US), CEO Dick Costolo earned $130,250 in the year the company raised $1.82 billion in an initial public offering.
In October, a majority of Oracle shareholders rejected Ellison’s pay packages for a second year in a vote that followed the recommendation of proxy adviser Institutional Shareholder Services, which said the compensation level didn’t match the company’s performance. Ellison, the 69-year-old founder of Oracle, saw his pay decline to $78.4 million from $96.2 million the previous year after he gave up an annual bonus and the company missed some of its profit targets.
The S&P 500 Index has more than doubled in five years as the economy recovered from the recession. If the stock market climbs, the actual amount CEOs receive will be higher than what is reported, said Alan Johnson, a managing director at compensation consultant Johnson Associates.
“The stock market is up so much over five years we’re going to see a pretty good variation between what we say we paid an executive in a particular year and what their actual income is in that year,” Johnson said.
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